Friday, February 28, 2014

Battle being won against new acquatic invasive species introduction

The defensive war against further invasive species introduction into the Great Lakes is being won, says the U.S. Coast Guard.

Since 2006, ballast water management strategies have applied to shipping vessels traversing the St. Lawrence Seaway and thus into the five Great Lakes. These rules are noteworthy because they are the world's most stringent, the Coast Guard says.

Stringent as well as vital; the reason being that the discharge of ballast water from ocean-going vessels – and obtained from some far-distant foreign port – is generally acknowledged as being the venue for the introduction of such invasive aquatic pest as the zebra mussel and the round goby, two highly undesirable species from a rather long list of rogue enemies to native species.

In noting the success, the Great Lakes Seaway Ballast Water Working Group has prepared its summary for the 2013 shipping season, the fifth consecutive one in which mandatory ballast water tank inspection has been applied to every vessel entering the system.

This group is a collaboration of the U.S. Coast Guard and its Canadian counterpart, Transport Canada/Marine Safety and Security as well as the shipping interests of the Seaway.

The report notes that independent research performed by Fisheries and Ocean Canada has determined that “the risk of new aquatic invasive species being introduced in the Great Lakes via ballast water has been mitigated to extremely low levels.”

Credit can be scored that in 2013 virtually every ship bound for anywhere in the Great Lakes via the St. Lawrence Seaway underwent a required ballast tank exam.

And that was a staggering accomplishment, too, as the program inspected a total of 6,803 ballast tanks during 371 vessel transits, the Coast Guard says.

For vessels that did not exchange ballast water or flush their tanks were required to either keep what the holds contained as is, treat the existing ballast water in an environmentally sound and approved manner, or else return to sea and there conduct the appropriate and approved ballast water exchange.

Not unexpectedly with an improving economy the agencies in charge of the inspection program believe also they'll be busy this shipping season and anticipate continued high ship compliance rates, the Coast Guard says.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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