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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

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

Approximately 70 percent of the ships entering the Great Lakes fall into the NOBOB category,7 and have been previously exempted from regulatory requirements. Yet, all ships carry some leftover water and sediment in their ballast water tanks, and therefore are never truly “empty.” Water and sediment below certain levels in ballast water tanks become unpumpable, leaving behind residues that are likely to harbor viable eggs and cysts from invasive species.8 Vessels entering the lakes declaring NOBOB should also be required to show compliance with ballast management practices aimed specifically at reducing the accumulation of sediment which can harbour organisms. Such BMPs are designed to reduce the potential for introductions of aquatic alien invasive species from residual ballast water and sediment.

The Commission encourages efforts in the United States and Canada to address the threat NOBOB ships pose by making new requirements applicable to all vessels capable of carrying ballast. The Commission agrees that this approach will help to address invasive species introduced in residual water and sediment found in “empty” ballast tanks. These regulations should require all ships entering the Great Lakes with residual ballast water and sediment in “empty” ballast tanks to employ enhanced ballast water management practices that reduce the amount of sediment in the tanks to provide a less-favorable environment for organisms and, conceivably, decrease the likelihood they could survive. However, since existing techniques such as “swish and spit” have yet to be proven effective or practical for all classes of ships, additional research is needed to find new techniques that reduce the risk of further introductions of aquatic alien invasive species from tanks containing residual water and sediment.

The Commission advises the governments to provide additional funding for research to:

  • dedicate test platforms for full-scale tests of ballast water treatment technologies in the Great Lakes;
  • develop and adopt alternative technologies to surpass the Convention’s proposed standards for ballast water discharge;
  • validate the effectiveness of ballast water discharge and treatment in the Great Lakes ecosystem; and
  • develop analytical tools and procedures to detect new high-risk invasive species, and techniques such as DNA finger printing 9 that could be used to trace the point of origin of these species.