A shipping regulation viscerally dubbed ‘swish-and-spit’ is being hailed as the breaking point in a century-long fight against invasive species in the Great Lakes. On March 28th, the Duluth News Tribune reported that there were “no new confirmed aquatic invasive species in [the] Great Lakes for 10 years.”
In 2006, a stringent regulation was introduced which requires ships to fill their ballast tanks out at sea, a salty death for any species which might survive and thrive in freshwater. The ships then release that ballast water before they cruise into the Great Lakes system. It’s said by some to have a 98% success rate at killing any species who pose threat. The measure was first suggested in 1993, but not passed by both the U.S. and Canada until 2006.
If the claim is true, it’s a “startling reversal of fortune” for the Great Lakes, which the Tribune reports has seen 185 new invasive species since the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959, roughly one new species every 28 weeks.
The Great Lakes Ballast Water Working Group boasts in a 2015 report that it has a 100% inspection rate for the vessels. According to the Tribune, “the inspection effort looked at 8,361 ballast tanks on the 455 vessels that entered the lakes.”
Going forward, U.S. regulatory bodies are seeking to hold the shipping industry to the same standard as companies and sewage treatment facilities, identified by the Clean Water Act of 2008. The U.S. Coast Guard, the EPA, and the International Maritime Organization are all looking into effective extermination methods for unwanted critters which hide in ballast tanks: combinations of UV light, chemicals, filters, and tech are on the docket.
Though the costs of outfitting and retrofitting freighter ships with ballast treatment is hefty, the Tribune quotes Lana Pollack, U.S. chair of the International Joint Commission, who insists that the treatments have preventative value and are a “great investment.” She contrasted the cost of preventative methods with expensive reactive cleanup efforts after species have invaded.
On the U.S. side, Minnesota and Wisconsin are to regulate and oversee freighter ships which never leave the Great Lakes system. Though shipping interests insist they are not to blame for invasive species introduction, regulators insist that their ballasts can still spread species which have already invaded. They will be holding Great Lakes freighters to IMO standards starting in 2018.
For the full story, please visit the Duluth News Tribune’s article here.