I am very pleased to
be with you this morning in Windsor, Ontario for this 12th International
Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species.
I have noted from the
program that there are a number of the presenters from distant countries
ranging from Argentina to China, and from New Zealand to the Netherlands, the Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
To me, this truly
reflects the global nature of the problem and the urgent need for regional,
national, and international, co-ordination and partnerships if we are to be successful
at dealing with the threats from alien invasive species entering our native
Over the next several
days you will be able to discuss, listen and make recommendations for action to
deal with the
enormity of the alien invasive species problem both here in the Great Lakes St.
Lawrence basin and worldwide - with modern, transport systems and
extraordinarily complex global economic patterns, invasive species are
piggy-backing free rides across countless borders and ecosystems at
The Union of
Concerned Scientists in November 2001 said “Worldwide, at least 7,000 species,
ranging from cholera and botulism bacteria to invertebrates and fish, are
probably in motion each day in the ballast water of tens of thousands of ships
(Carlton 1999;McCarthy and Crowder 2000)”.
This ability has
brought with it the means for intentional and unintentional transfer of
organisms from their native habitats to others where they do not have predators
which control them in their places of origin.
During the conference
you will hear not only about the economic and ecological damages invasive
species are causing worldwide but also what scientists, industry, government
and non-government organizations are doing to address the alien invasive
species crisis and it is a crisis. As
the Canadian Chair of the International Joint Commission, the Great Lakes, and the issue of aquatic alien invasive
species are among my major interests. In
my opinion, the
issue so far has received far less attention by political leaders and
mainstream public opinion alike than is warranted by the facts.
For over 90 years the Commission, has
successfully assisted the Canadian and U.S. governments to deal with transboundary
water-resource issues through processes that seek the common best
interests of both countries.
The Treaty, and the
Commission, cover the whole Canada-U.S. border region; from the Atlantic to the Pacific - from New Brunswick and Maine all the way through to the Yukon and Alaska . Many people are not aware of that fact.
What has developed
over time is a unique institution. This institution not only offers the two
countries a flexible set of mechanisms to help them manage their relationship
in the boundary region, but it also provides them with the assurance that it
will reflect the shared system of principles and values recognized in the IJC’s mission statement. These principles are sustainable
development, and using the precautionary approach and the ecosystem approach to
Since the 1980s, the
International Joint Commission has issued alerts to the governments and the
public about the threat of aquatic invasive species to the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin and its economy.
responsibilities assigned to it under the Canada-United States Great Lakes
Water Quality Agreement. The
International Joint Commission helps implement the Agreement and assesses the
progress being made under it by the governments “to restore and maintain the
chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the waters of the Great Lakes
Yet despite more than
a decade of international attention and regional action, this biological
pollution that is constituted by AIS continues at both great ecological and
economic cost to both countries. To date there are believed to be 162 alien
species in the Great
Lakes. There has been a degree of success at
controlling some of them and I will deal with this point in a minute or
The Great Lakes stand as a unique resource for Canada and the U.S.. Lakes
Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan and Superior all rank among the 17 largest lakes in the
world based on water surface area.
The Canadian and U.S. portions collectively comprise 20% of the
world’s freshwater by surface area. They
supply water for drinking for upwards of 40 million people as well as
industrial use and for recreational and shipping. The Canadian portion of the Great Lakes alone comprises approximately 90,000 km2
of surface area.
fishery is the most valuable freshwater fishery in Canada representing 50% of
Canada’s freshwater total with a value over $40 million dollars annually. The
recreational fishery attracts over half a million anglers and is valued upwards
of $4 billion dollars a year while employing nearly 20,000 people.
In the early 1800's,
the eel-like, parasitic sea lamprey were discovered in Lake Ontario. The newly constructed Erie canal that
connected the Great Lakes and Hudson river drainage basins gave the lamprey a
route into the Lakes from their native habitat in the Atlantic Ocean. Then subsequently, in the mid-1950s, sea
lamprey again migrated via the newly constructed Welland
Canal from Lake Ontario to other Great Lakes.
Its attacks on native
species caused tremendous economic losses to commercial, recreational and
subsistence Great Lakes fisheries - today about 15 million dollars are spent
annually on control of sea lamprey and research about it. Presently as a result their populations are
at approximately 10% of their historic levels.
If this control were terminated and populations of sea lamprey were
allowed to expand, the total value of the lost of fishing opportunities plus
indirect economic impacts could exceed $500 million annually- not mention the
native lake trout populations including the only self sustaining trout
population in Lake Superior would again be threaten into extinction. So any cutbacks to the current budget for sea
lamprey control and research could have very serious results and effects.
The Lakes are important
not only in terms of the economic value of its fishery but also in terms of the
cultural and way of life of many of the First Nations people residing in
The damage from alien
invasive species can be as much environmental as economic. They can directly affect ecosystems by
severely reducing habitat structure and diversity through direction competition
for food sources for predation. The
zebra mussel the best known aquatic invader in the Great Lakes have excerted large and far reaching impacts on this freshwater
ecosystem through biofouling and filter-feeding. They
have severely reduced, and may yet eliminate native mussel species in the
Lakes. The latest AIS threat to the
Great Lakes is the Asian carp that have been moving up the Mississippi River
system. If they are successful in
getting by the electric barrier in the Illinois river near Chicago and into the
Great Lakes, scientists believe they would wreak havoc on native species
because of their rapid breeding and ability
to consume large amounts of
plankton - the food source for the food
- of many of the native species. Asian
carp can grow to 100 pounds and up to four feet in length.
pollution’s effects – the effects of AIS are usually irreversible. A real risk remains that the next alien
species, if allowed into the Great Lakes, adding to species there already
together could permanently harm the biological and ecological diversity of the
Great Lakes, the world’s largest surface freshwater ecosystem.
The primary source of
the aquatic invasive species threat to the Great Lakes is through the species
entering the lakes through the discharge of ballast water from ocean going
vessels when they are in the lakes.
The Commission, for over a decade, has advised shippers and
all stakeholders including the Federal, State and Provincial governments on the
need to prevent further introductions into the Great Lakes ecosystem.
The U.S. has
responded by developing regulations about ballast water and Canada has
developed similar voluntary Ballast Water Guidelines as well. These are administered by federal officials
and require ships to do a mid-ocean exchange of ballast water before entering
the Great Lakes ecosystem through the St. Lawrence River.
However, risks remain
because the majority of ships entering the Great Lakes system can legally claim
"no ballast on board" and may not be inspected. Even if ships are inspected, they may still
harbor alien species in the sludge remaining in supposedly empty ballast tanks,
or in the bio-films contaminating their hulls or anchor chains. When the ballast tanks are filled with Great
Lakes water after the cargo is unloaded, and then subsequently emptied
elsewhere in the lakes as new cargo is taken on the sludge that could be
harboring alien invertebrates or fish fry may be discharge along with the
Two other sources of
introduction and spread of alien species are bait boxes and boats of sport
fishers moving from another basin into the Great Lakes or between the
lakes. There is also the problem of the
sale of live alien species of fish, like Asian carp, in some ethnic fish
markets and restaurants in Great Lakes cities, such as Toronto.
In its 11th Biennial
Report on Great Lakes Water Quality, the International Joint Commission has urgently
recommended the Governments need to take more aggressive steps to end the
invasion of alien species by doing the following:
make existing voluntary guidelines for ballast water management practices
mandatory and provide for measures of enforcement and compliance for all ships
capable of carrying ballast water, including those currently not carrying
uniform protocols for performance testing of ballast water:
best practices and any improvements for ballast management operations
by the end of 2003 enforceable interim biological standards
establish biological standards for ballast water discharges from all ships and
for new technologies for ballast water treatment.
all ships built after a certain date have a treatment technology incorporated
in their construction as a condition for entry into the Great Lakes.
and implement economic incentives to encourage shippers to continuously improve
(ISO 14000) Ballast Management Practices.
research recommended by expert regional, national and binational
panels, task forces and committees, especially focused on:
* research (including research for biological
standards, criteria and indicators) for ballast water treatment necessary to
drive technology, product development, and ship design
* research to develop alternative
technologies including biocides to achieve new standards and criteria for the
elimination of Alien Invasive Species in ballast water
*research and technology development to
reduce entrained and accumulated sediment in ship ballast water and tanks, and
*research to develop analytical tools and
procedures to permit the identification of new invasive species and to link
these species to their possible points of origin and vessels of introduction.
6. Issue the Commission a reference to
coordinate and harmonize binational efforts for
action to stop this ongoing threat to the economy and the biological integrity
of the Great Lakes.
The Commission is encouraged by the recent
attention given to aquatic invasive species by legislative bodies in both
countries. Reports by U.S. congressional
General Accounting Office and the Canadian Parliamentary Commissioner for
Environment and Sustainable Development both call for urgent action. Two weeks ago, the Standing Committee on
Fisheries and Oceans of the Canadian House of Commons released their report
recommending that Canada (and the U.S.) give a permanent reference to – as
asked for by - the International Joint
Commission to coordinate and harmonize binational
efforts for action to counter the threat of aquatic invasive species in the
Great Lakes basin.
continues to call for specific policies – as others are – that if carried out
will substantially reduce the introduction and spread of invasive species in
the Great Lakes, in Canada and in the United States and thereby decrease their
impacts on native aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity.
I urge that you over
the next few days to develop practical recommendations for action and how best
we can all help bring about the creation of effective policies not only
regionally, but nationally, and internationally to overcome one of the most
serious threats to global bio-diversity - the spread of alien invasive species.
Convention on Biodiversity identifies exotics and genetically modified
organisms as major threats to global biodiversity. The convention states that exotics “cause
fundamental, irreversible alterations in the structure of communities through
predation, competition, disturbance and the introduction of disease and
parasites. No introduced marine
organism, once established has ever been successfully removed or contained....”
Further to this,
biologists no longer expect that undisturbed systems are safe from
invasion. For the International Joint
Commission, the status quo cannot be accepted and the time for action is
now. Canada has ratified the
convention - which commits the Federal
government adopting legislation to deal with alien species - one of the most
serious threats to health and to ecological, social and economic well-being.
I wish you success in your deliberations and
look forward to receiving your conclusions.