The U.S. House of Representatives has advanced legislation supported by The Nature Conservancy that will block one of the top pathways through which invasive species are introduced to our nation’s lakes, rivers and seas. If signed into law, the Ballast Water Treatment Act will go a long way toward halting further invasions which have already cost our economy billions in control efforts.
The Ballast Water Treatment Act, being considered as part of the Coast Guard Authorization Act, will stop the spread of invasive species through shipping by 2015. Sponsored by Congressman Oberstar (D-MN), and LaTourette (R-OH), the legislation requires ships in U.S. waters to install ballast treatment systems to eradicate invasive species carried in ships ballast water, and to implement best management practices to address other ways in which invasive species can be spread from ships. The legislation also creates new authority coordinated across federal agencies to quickly detect and respond to aquatic invasive species from all sources.
"This problem of invasive species has been studied to death; now it's time to act," said Oberstar, the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and lead sponsor of the bill. "We've already seen infestations of the sea lamprey, the zebra mussel and the 'fish killing virus,' and we can't wait for the next infestation before we decide to take action. This legislation sets tough standards that protect the Great Lakes, and it gives the Coast Guard the authority to enforce them."
“The Ballast Water Treatment Act of 2008 will establish national ballast water discharge standards that will protect our lakes, rivers and coastal waters from future introductions of environmentally harmful invasive species,” said U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, ranking Republican of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee. “In the Great Lakes, we have experienced the effects that invasive species can have on natural ecosystems and fisheries. This bill includes measures that will further minimize the possibility of any future invasion taking place.”
The Senate is expected to pass a similar Coast Guard Authorization Act bill this year, with Senate leaders intending to include aquatic invasives legislation provisions in conference with the House legislation.
“Here in the Great Lakes region, aquatic invasive species pose a serious threat to our economy and our native wildlife. Maritime shipping has played a major role in the spread and introduction of invasives into our inland freshwaters, so adoption of new ballast water legislation will not only benefit marine environments but also the Great Lakes and connected streams and rivers,” said Lindsay Chadderton, director of invasive species for The Nature Conservancy’s Great Lakes Program. “In many cases the Great Lakes have acted as a point of entry for invasions due to shipping. Urgent action is needed to stop new introductions and I welcome this legislation as a means to block one of the most important pathways through which invasive species are introduced.”
The nation’s oceans, lakes, rivers and ponds are increasingly at risk from invasive species – these are non-native species which when introduced to a new area by human intervention, can spread unchecked, displacing native plants and animals. The impacts of some species already introduced through shipping have proved devastating:
For example: A Caspian Sea tanker dumped its ballast water—and the Eurasian zebra mussel—into the Great Lakes a little more than a decade ago. Now the tiny mussels threaten to smother 140 native mussel species, and waterfront industries, like dams and power plants, must pay billions in on-going maintenance to clear clogged pipes while passing the cost to consumers.
If passed, this legislation will slow the rate of new introductions to the nation and help prevent the spread of the harmful invasive species already established elsewhere in United States.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.