Last week marked Aquatic Invasive Species Week in Michigan, and the Department of Environmental Quality provided some basic knowledge, tips, and tricks to help residents keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes.
If you’re not familiar with the impact that invasive (non-native) species can have on the environment, the economy, and human health, take a look at this 6 minute video provided by the Michigan DEQ. (And even if you are familiar, take a look anyway – there are some pretty jaw-dropping facts in the video!)
The Michigan DEQ believes it is everyone’s responsibility to stop the spread and reduce the impact of invasive species, and provides tips for all residents and tourists on how to help. Click here for easy tips if you are a: boater/angler, aquarium/pond owner, camper, hunters/trail user, or landowner.
If you’re looking for information geared to Lake Superior, the Lake Superior Binantional Program has you covered. They’ve compiled an Aquatic Species Complete Prevention Plan, easily accessible via PDF. Click here to see. Lake Superior’s non-native aquatic species include the round goby, the eurasian ruffe, purple loosestrife, New Zealand mudsnail, zebra mussels, sea lamprey, and eurasian watermilfoil. For an example of how much invasive species can impact your daily life, the DEQ measured lakeshore property values of houses which had eurasian water milfoil present versus those that didn’t. The properties which had the invasive water plant were, on average, worth 19% less than properties without the plant.
While invasive species have a number of different entry points to the Great Lakes, mostly their presence is due to human influence. As the DEQ states, “Modern means of transportation bring goods, services, people and invasives to all reaches of the globe. Ballast water from ships is to blame for introducing many invasive organisms to Great Lakes waters. Some exotic pets and plants that escape into the wild adapt to local conditions. Insects arriving from abroad in wood packing materials and wood products have caused irreparable damage to native trees and forests. Some invasives were brought to the U.S. intentionally as bio-controls for other invasives; others were introduced as game or food species.”
Ballast water treatment has been a hot-button issue lately, as politicians and industry are warring over how strict legislation and regulation should be. Promising news came last week as the International Marine Organization’s ‘International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments’ (BWM Convention) took a step towards being ratified completely. Originally adopted in 2004, the BWM Convention took aim and standardizing ballast water treatment guidelines to prevent the spread of invasive species. The IMO states that:
Under the convention, all ships in international traffic are required to manage their ballast water and sediments to a certain standard, according to a ship-specific ballast water management plan. All ships will also have to carry a ballast water record book and an international ballast water management certificate. The ballast water management standards will be phased in over a period of time. As an intermediate solution, ships should exchange ballast water mid-ocean. However, eventually most ships will need to install an on-board ballast water treatment system.
The BWM convention will not enter into force (be binding on its global signatories), until 12 months after 30 states representing 35% of the world’s merchant shipping tonnage have ratified it. Currently, 51 global states representing 34.87% tonnage have ratified the convention, and a Lexology article on ‘biosecurity’ and ballast water reports that “it is hoped Finland will quickly follow [in ratifying] with its 0.14% tonnage.” (Tonnage is analyzed by IMO on a monthly basis, so this figure is subject to change.)
Canada has ratified the convention, but U.S. has not, following its own set of more stringent ballast water treatment standards enforced by the U.S. Coast Guard.