Banner
.

STANDING COMMITTEE ON FISHERIES AND OCEANS
Opening Statement - The Rt. Hon. Herb Gray, Q.C., P.C,
Chair, Canadian Section
International Joint Commission

Tuesday, February 11, 2003
Ottawa, Ontario

Mr. Chairmen, thank you for the opportunity to appear before this committee to discuss our findings with respect to alien invasive species arising from our 11 th Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality. We are pleased to note that this committee for the first time is holding hearings that specifically focus in on this serious issue. I am aware of the testimony of the proceeding meeting last week of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and it appears we are all speaking along similar lines.

With me this morning are, the U.S. Section chair of the International Joint Commission, Dennis Schornack, Madame Johanne Gélinas, Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development, and Canadian IJC Commissioner Robert Gourd who has had a great interest in this issue for many years.

My opening statement is based on the Commission's recently published 11 th Biennial Report on Great Lakes Water Quality. Under the bi-national Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the Commission has the mandate to report on the Canadian and U.S. governments' progress in fulfilling their obligations to restore the biological, physical and chemical integrity of the Great Lakes. Since the 1980s, the International Joint Commission has issued alerts about the threat of aquatic alien species to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin and its economy. Yet despite more than a decade of international attention and some degree of action, this biological pollution continues at both great ecological and economic cost.

Alien Invasive Species also often referred to, as exotic species are organisms that are not native to a particular region or ecosystem. For example, the Zebra mussel is an exotic species in North America; in the Caspian Sea it is a native species. While the term exotic species includes terrestrial and aquatic organisms our presentations focus on the latter.

Alien Invasive Species also often referred to, as exotic species are organisms that are not native to a particular region or ecosystem. For example, the Zebra mussel is an exotic species in North America; in the Caspian Sea it is a native species. While the term exotic species includes terrestrial and aquatic organisms our presentations focus on the latter.

In the latter part of that period, during the 1970's, emission controls were introduced for automobiles in the U.S. and Canada, and this action, along with the eventual elimination of lead from gasoline by both Federal governments also had an immediate and significant positive impact on our air quality. However, in our airshed, ozone pollution still remained a central concern.

Researchers widely believe that the cost of biological pollution from alien invasive species are both massive and rising, with the cost to native ecosystems, natural resources, fisheries and agriculture in the tune of $137 billion per year in the United States alone, including but not restricted to aquatic species. Although no similar figures are available to us at this point, I am certain the costs are high similarly for Canadians as well.

In the Great Lakes, costs for treatment and control of zebra mussels and sea lamprey over the last decade have exceeded $100 million dollars. The sea lamprey because of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission control program has been greatly reduced in numbers, however it can never be totally eliminated.

The damage is at least as much environmental as economic. Since biological pollution's effects are often irreversible, any future introductions of alien invasive species could permanently harm the biological and ecological diversity of the Great Lakes, the world's largest surface freshwater ecosystem.

As I have said despite more than a decade of national attention and some degree of action, the introduction and spread of aquatic alien invasive species continue to impair the biological integrity of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin ecosystem.

We believe immediate Canadian Government federal action is required to make compulsory by regulation improved ship's ballast water management procedures. However this will reduce but not eliminate the biological and economic threat to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin ecosystem from the further introduction and spread of alien invasive species.

The Great Lake region's sense of the biological and economic urgency of the problem drives the call for more federal leadership and immediate steps to prevent further introduction and spread of alien invasive species. The time to act is now. The specific steps the IJC recommends and calls for will be outlined by Chair Schornack.

Before calling on Commissioner Gourd (and Chair Schornack) to provide more specifics of our concerns we would like to show a short video produced by the office of the Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development about this matter.

(2 minute video - CESD overall of the AIS)

Top of Page
Banner