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Time for Immediate Action to Protect the Great Lakes from Invasion
IJC and GLFC Urge Adoption of Strong Ballast Water Convention

Ottawa, February 10, 2004 – Today, the International Joint Commission (IJC) and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) urged adoption of a tough international convention to regulate ballast water. This week, more than 160 member countries of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) are meeting in London, England, for final negotiations on a treaty to prevent the spread of invasive species in ballast water.

"The Great Lakes are especially vulnerable to invasion, making the need for a biologically protective convention especially urgent," said the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray, Chair of the Canadian Section of the IJC. "With the help of a strong convention, the IJC stands ready to help both Canada and the United States develop a cooperative, binational strategy to safeguard the biological diversity and ecosystem health of the Great Lakes."

"Preventing the next invasion is absolutely critical to protecting a healthy Great Lakes fishery," said Dennis Schornack, Chair of the U.S. Section of the IJC. "Of particular concern to the IJC is the risk that each new invader can have a devastating impact on both the ecology and economy of the Great Lakes."

The IJC and GLFC noted in separate correspondence to IMO delegates that the convention must include the ability for signatory nations to adopt stricter regulations that could be implemented as soon as possible.

"The IMO meeting that takes place this week is a momentous opportunity for Canada, the United States, and the world to take strong action to stop the spread of invasive species through ballast water discharge," said Dr. Roy Stein, Vice-Chair of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. "Our fishery resources are threatened in the Great Lakes with each passing foreign ship. Unless the IMO treaty allows nations to impose ballast regulations uniquely designed to protect their waters, I’m afraid weak regulations in other countries will keep our Great Lakes vulnerable to future invasions."

Since 1988, both the IJC and the GLFC have raised the alarm regarding the threat posed by invasive species, especially the zebra mussel, and have repeatedly called for the implementation of mandatory regulations for the management of ballast water by vessels traveling to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. Both agencies have also worked on preventing the spread of invasive species via other vectors, particularly the spread of Asian carp via the Illinois waterway system. The IJC and GLFC have worked closely to block the carp from reaching Lake Michigan through the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal.

Estimates of the economic cost of controlling alien invasive species vary but range from the hundreds of millions to billions of dollars. The ecological threat posed by invaders make them a top threat to biodiversity because of their ability to disrupt the food web, possibly causing devastating negative impacts on fish populations in the Great Lakes.

The IJC is a binational agency established by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to prevent and resolve disputes between the U.S. and Canada regarding the conservation and management of transboundary water resources. The GLFC is a binational agency established by the 1954 Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries to coordinate fisheries research, control sea lampreys, and facilitate implementation of the Joint Strategic Plan for Management of Great Lakes Fisheries. Information about the IMO can be found online at www.imo.org.

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Contacts:
Fabien Lengellé, Ottawa, Ontario: (613) 995-0088
Frank Bevacqua, Washington DC: (202) 736-9024
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