Invasive Species Regulations In Trouble For The Great Lakes

The federal government has recently been making a push to better protect the Great Lakes from a number of invasive species. But a new bill has some environmentalists concerned that protective measures could be all for nothing, according to The Kansas City Star and other news outlets. The implications could affect sportsmen in a major way.

The proposed House bill, called the Commercial Vessel Discharge Reform Act of 2011, is gaining steam among politicians. It would essentially lessen a state's power to regulate Great Lakes waters by exempting ballast water from the Clean Water Act. Problem is, ballast water--which is the water that is stored in the hulls of ships during maritime travels--is where most invasive species hitch rides.
Proponents of the new bill say that the current modus operandi, where individual states set their own ballast standards, allows for too much disparity from state-to-state, and thus, negatively impacts the shipping industry and hurts the economy.

However, opponents of the bill claim that without the states' abilities to set their own rules and standards, the default regulator would be international laws and regulations proposed by the International Maratime Organization, which conservation groups say are too flimsy to stop many invasive species.

"This bill derails recent progress made to develop a strong national policy to stop invasive species from entering the Great Lakes," says Andy Buchsbaum of the National Wildlife Federation "The obligation to establish standards to protect water quality, the obligation to provide for public input, and states' rights are all erased."

While everyone awaits the fate of the Commercial Vessel Discharge Reform Act of 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency have vowed to unveil new, stronger regulations and rules for overseas ships planning to dock in U.S. ports, mainly due to significant pressure from conservation groups.

The new rules are an attempt to stop the spread of mussels, insects and other species that hitch rides from other countries and wreak havoc on the marine ecosystems in the Great Lakes. Experts cite the zebra and quagga mussels and prime examples of such destructive invasive species; these mussels, which originally came from lakes in Russia, have spread rapidly and damaged everything from algae content and waterways--and impacted fish populations as a result.