Lake Carriers’ Association Applauds Great Waters Research Collaborative Report – Urges Further Study Before Creating New Ballast Water Management Policies for the Great Lakes

May 31, 2018
May 31, 2018 LCA


CLEVELAND, OHIO (May 31, 2018) – The U.S.-based Lake Carriers’ Association (LCA) applauds the findings in the Great Lakes Ballast Monitoring Project Technical Report released today by the Great Waters Research Collaborative (GWRC). LCA and its members were founding partners in the study along with GWRC, and worked in cooperation with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The study provides an analysis of non-native organisms found in ballast water discharged into western Lake Superior by U.S. and Canadian lake vessels (“lakers”).

While LCA believes this study is a productive first step, the research needs to go further before ballast management policy can evolve. Specifically, more work is needed to:

  • Broaden the scope of testing. While uptake and discharge of ballast water were sampled, non-native species were not identified as alive or dead at uptake, nor was it determined if any that were alive survived the voyage and then survived discharge.
  • Expand the data set. GWRC’s sample data was limited to just a few months, between August and December of 2017.
  • Expand the data sample size. The research collected samples from just 8 vessels, which took in ballast water from the lower four Great Lakes and subsequently discharged it into Western Lake Superior as part of routine voyages. While lakers make approximately 1,600 voyages to western Lake Superior each year, only 15 voyages were sampled. Moreover, just four of those 15 sampling events were for an entire voyage, which entailed sampling a vessel’s ballast water at uptake in the lower Great Lakes, sampling again at the location where the vessel discharged ballast water, and sampling the ambient waters at both ends of the voyage.

“It would be premature to base policy going forward on this limited data,” said Jim Weakley, president of Lake Carriers’ Association. “Let’s do some more work and get some more data to determine whether this study is telling us something new, or if these are limited data points that don’t reflect bigger issues and trends in the Great Lakes.”

“We think a broader study is needed in order to evolve effective ballast water management practices for the Great Lakes. A multi-year effort would yield more data and give us more information on which to base changes in the way ballast water is handled in the Great Lakes,” said Weakley. “We welcome the opportunity to continue working with our partners to broaden the solid work already accomplished with this study.”

LCA has long recognized the threat non-native species may represent to the Great Lakes and has been a leader in working on solutions for decades. The organization created Voluntary Ballast Water Management Programs to respond to the incursion of Eurasian ruffe in the 1980s and to the viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus in the mid-2000s. In 2001, LCA produced a seven-point initiative that encouraged industry-government partnerships, recommended processes for sediment management, set guidelines for ballast management and encouraged industry support of scientific research.

That same year, LCA modified the Coast Guard’s voluntary ballast water management program and added eight very specific requirements for its members specifically designed to address the issue of invasive species. During the past two years, the association has spent about $500,000 on studies related to non-native species in the Great Lakes. One LCA member partnered with the National Parks Service and the National Parks Conservancy of Lake Superior to research ballast water treatment on lakers with a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant.

“Our work on this issue is urgent and ongoing, and with this report, we’ve taken a step forward in the right direction,” said Weakley. “I think everyone will agree we share a common goal – to work together to construct a solid scientific foundation upon which we can build sound practices for non-native species management in the Great Lakes.”

The full report, which was funded by the U.S. EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative via the U.S. Maritime Administration, can be accessed here:

About Lake Carriers’ Association

Since 1880 Lake Carriers’ Association has represented the U.S.-flag Great Lakes fleet, which today can annually move more than 90 million tons of cargos that are the foundation of American manufacturing, power generation, and construction: iron ore, limestone, coal, cement, and other dry bulk materials such as grain and sand. In turn, these cargos generate and sustain more than 103,000 jobs in the eight Great Lakes states and have an annual economic impact of more than $20 billion.

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