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Canada expands ballast water restrictions to reduce invasive species spread

Canada expands ballast water restrictions to reduce invasive species spread
June 24, 2021 Michigan Radio

By Lester Graham, Michigan Radio

The Great Lakes News Collaborative includes Bridge Michigan; Circle of Blue; Great Lakes Now at Detroit Public Television; and Michigan Radio, Michigan’s NPR News Leader; who work together to bring audiences news and information about the impact of climate change, pollution, and aging infrastructure on the Great Lakes and drinking water. This independent journalism is supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Find all the work HERE.


Canada is expanding its rules for ballast water in ships. The Canadian Minister of Transport outlined the new regulations intended to prevent the further spread of invasive species in Canada.

Ballast water helps keep ships level by pumping it in or out of the ship when loading and unloading. Doing that also can suck up invasive species such as quagga and zebra mussels and then spread them to the next port.

“The new ballast water regulations will limit the introduction and spread of these species by vessels while protecting Canada’s biodiversity,” said Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport, according to a release.

The rules require all Canadian ships and all ships visiting Canadian ports to treat ballast water. That includes so-called “lakers.” They are ships which only haul cargo within the Great Lakes.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ballast rules exempt “lakers” from treating ballast water, only requiring ocean-going vessels to manage ballast water.

“We’re excited to see that Canada has decided to regulate “lakers” (which) can move invasive species from lake to lake,” said Molly Flanagan with the environmental group Alliance for the Great Lakes.

Canadian officials say the move will cut the spread of invasive species in Canadian ports by an estimated 82% by 2030.

“I think Canada is really looking at what is needed in order to protect the Great Lakes and I hope that EPA is going to follow suit,” Flanagan said.

Canadian officials concede it’s a cost to the shipping companies, but note the total cost to upgrade ships is estimated to be about $227 million (U.S) and will save about $800 million in invasive species damage to fishing, infrastructure, and the environment in Canada.


Catch more news on Great Lakes Now:

Great Lakes freighters may have to treat ballast water

Early Detection: When it comes to Great Lakes invasives, prevention is the only cure

Least Wanted: Potential Great Lakes invasive species are little known but still a big problem


Featured image: One of the lakers, bulk cargo ships that travel only within the Great Lakes system.
(Photo Credit: Lester Graham/Michigan Radio)

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