Statement - Commissioner Robert Gourd
Canadian Section
International Joint Commission

Tuesday, February 11, 2003
Ottawa, Ontario

The Commission has long recognized the threat of alien invasive species to the Great Lakes St. Lawrence ecosystem. As far back as September 1990, the Commission in collaboration with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission issued a special report recommending that all oceangoing ships at minimum be required to exchange their ballast in mid-ocean before entering the Great Lakes. We also recommended the United States and Canada, through their Coast Guards and other responsible agencies coordinate their ballast water exchange and treatment programs as fully as possible for purpose of standardization, monitoring, and enforcement. Simply said this has yet to happen.

Current U.S. regulations, Canadian guidelines, and industry practices in place are not sufficient to prevent further alien invasive species introduction and spread. The pace of progress is much too slow while the risks to the lakes remain high. Specifically, current U.S. regulations exempting ships declaring no ballast on board do nothing to minimize the threat. These ships represent 70-75% of all ship traffic entering the Great Lakes. Ongoing U.S. studies have found in the range of 6,000 to 600,000 invertebrate eggs per metric tonne in the residual sediment of ships with no ballast on board. Further to this, these researchers have been successful in rearing eggs in their resting stage in the ballast water tanks of ships in-situ. Transport Canada must in a timely manner make their ballast water management guidelines into effective regulations to cover all ships including NOBOBs to address these and other potential threats of invading aquatic invasive species.

Lack of adequate funding for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans which is responsible to do the research necessary to develop biological standards necessary to drive technology, product development and ship design is a major obstacle to making progress in a timely manner. Also the Department of Fisheries and Oceans must accept its responsibilities in both freshwater and salt-water activities. We encourage Fisheries and Oceans to take a more balanced approach to their mandate by making more resources available, or seeking more resources to address their responsibilities for inland waters and in particular the Great Lakes St. Lawrence basin.

Aside from this very real problem of funding, there is currently only a piecemeal approach to resolving various problems and a failure to set priorities. Fisheries and Oceans and other relevant federal departments need to set clear priorities for the coming years, and carry them out in coordinated fashion.

The problem of aquatic alien invasive species is unlike climate change, because solving this problem does not require changes in life styles.

Unlike toxic chemicals, it does not require significant changes in industrial information.

By way of comparison the double-hull for ships requirement to prevent oil spills in the US Oil Pollution Control Act of 1990, added 10-20 percent to the cost of new tankers. But the measures required in ship design to combat Alien Invasive Species is much lower, in the range of 1 percent of the cost of new vessel construction.

Dealing with other vectors of concern such as aquaculture and the importation of live fish, baitfish, and fish for aquariums likely would involve minimal cost. It certainly does not require new technologies or limitations on the ability of those businesses to thrive. In fact, better coordination of policies among the multitude of jurisdictions already regulating those activities, and use of logical points in the stream of commerce to establish better quality control, are things which may well benefit some of those businesses. That is the good news. But the bad news at this stage is that it is not being done.

I would now like to call on the U.S. co chair, Dennis Schornack.

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