Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement: Aquatic invasive species


To contribute to the discussion about the aquatic invasive species section of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, post your thoughts below. If you want the U.S. and Canadian governments to consider your input, send it to the official website.

The continued introduction of invasive species is one of the most significant threats to biodiversity. Currently there is no binational mechanism to deal with this threat comprehensively. The review of the GLWQA indicated that because aquatic invasive species (AIS) can have known impacts on both water quality and beneficial uses, the issue falls within the scope of the Agreement. In addition, managing the impacts of harmful invasive species, once established, is a major challenge and the economic impacts are significant.

1. Scope

The recent review of the GLWQA noted the significant environmental and economic damages caused by AIS. AIS can degrade water quality by increasing turbidity, concentrating toxins, and altering nutrient/energy flows within the food web. AIS may be extremely difficult to control or impossible to eliminate once established. They are one of the leading causes of impairments of biological integrity in the Great Lakes.

The following are some considerations for the amendments to the GLWQA related to the scope of AIS efforts under a new Agreement:

* Address invasive species known to impact water quality.

* Address all aquatic invasive species that impact the biological integrity of the lakes.

* Address all aquatic and terrestrial invasive species within the Great Lakes basin.

* Also consider invasive species that are a threat to enter the Great Lakes through canals, rivers, and waterways.

2. Actions

The only mentions of AIS in the current agreement can be found in Annex 6, 1 (b) and Annex 17, 2 (i). Both references refer only in general terms to the need for research to determine the threat of AIS in ballast water to the Great lakes ecosystem and the impacts of AIS on fish and wildlife populations and habitat. There is no discussion of prevention or control in either annex and no discussion of pathways other than ballast water. The review of the GLWQA did not make suggestions regarding the specifics of implementing binational actions within a revised agreement.

Prevention is the primary focus of AIS efforts. To be effective, threats need to be identified at an early stage when prevention and control actions are still possible. A science-based risk assessment of the species and pathways provides an early warning of potential threats to the Great Lakes and helps guide management actions that will prevent AIS introductions. Rapid response actions could eliminate small infestations before they become established. Additional actions can help reduce the impacts of species that are already established in the Great Lakes.

The following elements of a program to address AIS focused on prevention are under consideration.

* Risk assessments of species and pathways to identify potential threats of introduction and impacts;

* Risk management actions to prevent potential threats of introduction and impact

* Outreach and communication

Rapid Response

* Early detection/monitoring surveillance to detect species before they become widely established;

* Rapid response/control activities to eliminate and/or stop the spread of new invaders;


* Ongoing control/management to address species already present

* Research to find ways to further minimize impacts of species already present

3. Management Framework

The need for a binational governance model to deal specifically with an AIS binational action plan under a revised GLWQA is being considered. The GLWQA review suggested that a revised GLWQA could serve as the organizing vehicle to deal with AIS binationally. The GLWQA review did not deal specifically with a management framework other than suggesting the creation of a separate annex for AIS but did suggest the U.S. Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy and its Aquatic Invasive Species appendix should be taken into account. There could also be existing action plans in either or both countries that could serve as models for an AIS annex in a revised Agreement.

The following are some considerations for the amendments to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement related to managing AIS under a new Agreement.

* Both countries identify priorities for action through a binational forum and address the priorities separately through existing or new domestic action.

* Canada and the U.S. develop priorities and strategies for addressing AIS through a binational action plan and address the priorities separately through existing or new domestic action.

* In addition to either of the above, Canada and the U.S. implement new binational programs or activities where feasible, in addition to existing domestic ones, to address elements of an AIS program.

3 thoughts on “Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement: Aquatic invasive species

  1. Although it is suspected that ballast water is causing the tar balls in Texas and in Lake Pontchartrain it will never be officially acknowledged, because this would prove the ineffective enforcement of the Clean Water Act. Even in this period of ecological destruction, it illustrates the EPA and the Coast Guard culture, has always been to overlook ballast water as being problematic. National ballast legislation should be enacted setting our Coast Guard on a mission of culture change. Ecologically protecting the quality of our water from all toxic substance, invasive s, pathogens and virus, along with the terrorist threat, that these systems pose should through education,inspection, and testing be instilled in the Coast Guard of the 21st century as it never has.

  2. Jennifer, no offense, but the IMO has a lousy track record for compliance. 10000 dead in South America in the 1990,s from ballast water related virus, chemicals have been used such as rat poision to kill living invasive’s. We as a nation can not expect to preserve our environment for future generations by following the lead of an international organization that represents foreign buisness interest. The United States has virtually no commercial ship building industry, China, South Korea, etc. are the ship builders and will have the major say, in these IMO regulations that you view as adequet for US laws. Do you think, if they do not care what they put in our childrens toys they will care what they put in our waters? What we need is national legislation such as hr2830 passed 395-7, by the House of Representatives for the change we needed in 2008. Unfortunately this was held up by over states rights in the Senate, while the 3 most prominent members of this administration were Senators. The Gulf should be a lesson to environmentalist, that this administration has chosen industry for todays economy over the future of our countries environment for future generations. The president has stated that the Federal government has been calling the shots from the begining in the Gulf oil leak, which means the policy to use toxic dispersent under water, experimentally for days on end, creating giant under water plumes drifting into shipping lanes, to then be dispersed by international shiping around the world was their idea. Their actions are just a continuation of “dilution is the solution to pollution” as the IMO policy that the Coast Guard plans to follow for ballast water is. Instead of trying to hide the spill they should have initiated a response, of tankers sucking it up as was done in the middle east.(successfully) If they bothered to read their e-mail this suggestion was made at the start.

  3. Aquatic Invasive Species: vectors and control

    It is important to realize that the GLWQA now being revised was written before the arrival of zebra mussels and awareness of several other alarming invasive species. As a result, the topic (as is mentioned above) was dealt with only very summarily. In fact there are at lease 3 major vectors which should be identified as sources of AIS: ship ballast water, canals and recreational boating, and trade in live organisms. Each of these avenues for introduction should have unified binational targets, and effort should be made to implement equal programs (I am not sure whether joint or unifed would be more effective), in both Canada and the United States.

    Where ballast water is concerned, standards have improved dramatically since the early 1990s. However, since efforts have been made to co-ordinate not only Canada’s and the United States policy, but the independent regulations of standards with those of 7 different Great Lakes states, the effort has been inevitably disjointed. If a single standard, such as the IMO ballast water standard could be adopted by all, it would make following regulations and installing adaptive equipment for more feasible for ships, which after all are part of and international industry and so conform best to international standards.

    As far as the health of the Great Lakes is concerned, the IMO standards appear to be set at a safe level, and are as strict as can be measured. Instead of attempting to issue unenforceable standards, the Great Lakes would benefit far more states and provinces creating a comprehensive ban on the trade in potentially invasive species, pre-emptively identifying what might be imported to the detriment of our Great Lakes, and ensuring they never arrive.

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