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Biological Integrity


Aquatic Alien Invasive Species: Living with the Uncertainty of Biological Pollution in the Great Lakes

Creating a Regional Approach: What We Can Do Better

Implement a Great Lakes Biologically Protective Standard

Require Certification of Technology to Achieve the Standard

Require Enhanced Ballast Management Practices for No Ballast on Board (NOBOBs)

Promote Ongoing Regional Cooperation

Develop Measures to Ensure Compliance

Enlist the Assistance of the International Joint Commission


Microbial Contamination

Where are the Pathogens Coming From?

Detecting Pathogens and Assessing Risks

Gaps in Pathogen Detection

The Emergence of New Pathogens

The Walkerton Tragedy: A Lesson for the Great Lakes?

As Population Grows, Water Infrastructure Must Be Updated





Aquatic Alien Invasive Species

Promote Ongoing Regional Cooperation

The Great Lakes have a long history of effective, cooperative work between United States and Canadian agencies. The Joint Marine Contingency Plan provides an excellent framework for binational response to spills of oil and hazardous chemicals. However, coordinated efforts to deal with aquatic alien invasive species face a tremendous challenge due to the issue’s large scope and institutional complexity.

The governments’ response to addressing aquatic alien invasive species has been complicated by factors such as the global nature of the shipping industry, and further compounded by the large number of federal, state and provincial agencies that must be involved: fish and wildlife; transportation; agriculture; pest management; forestry; food; and public health. These agencies all have missions and jurisdictions relating to a particular pathway or aspect of the invasive species problem. In addition, several tribal and nongovernmental organizations throughout the region are responding to this threat.

Not surprisingly, all of these responsible agencies often act in a disjointed fashion that leads to duplication of efforts and inefficient use of finite resources. Regional panels such as the Great Lakes Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species, established by the United States Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force and the National Invasive Species Council, have been formed to encourage cooperation between responsible agencies to address this problem. However, recent reports from the Canadian Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development and the United States General Accounting Office have criticized the lack of regional coordination in responding to the threat of invasive species.10

An Executive Order signed on May 18, 2004 by President Bush created a U.S. Interagency Task Force intended to improve interagency regional coordination regarding all problems facing the Great Lakes. This action was welcomed by the Honourable David Anderson, Canada’s Minister of the Environment in a statement released May 19, 2004 where he recognized the long history of cooperation between Canada and the United States in support of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and Canada’s willingness to work in collaboration with this newly created task force. The two nations should pursue this initiative and as part of the effort, harmonize national invasive species prevention plans and enhance preventative measures, particularly those procedures dealing with the threat of residual ballast water and sediment in ballast tanks.   This could lead to establishing a regional cooperative agreement containing a unified, biologically protective, bi-national ballast water discharge standard for the Great Lakes region as a whole, as provided for by Article 13 of the International Maritime Organization Convention for the Control and Management of Ship’s Ballast Water and Sediments.

Operational characteristics that can influence a regional solution include regionalized economics, ship traffic control, automatic vessel identification, and regulation by seaway authorities. Therefore, the involved governments and agencies should objectively consider a wide range of options targeted at eliminating the threat of freshwater invaders. These include:

  • Shipboard treatment technology;
  • Shore-based technologies; and
  • Cargo transfer facilities coupled with entry restrictions for foreign ships arriving from ports containing biota that could pose a threat to the Great Lakes aquatic ecosystem.

Every option must be studied objectively from an economic and an environmental viewpoint to develop a workable Great Lakes prevention program that best serves the region’s needs.