Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Great Lakes Rescue?

The headline of the editorial in the New York Times today read Great Lakes Rescue. Of course, I read it. It briefly describes recovery programs like the Clean Water Act of 1972 and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for which President Obama asked and received from the House $475 to be EPA efforts to help the lakes.

It also acknowledges that invasive species, like zebra and quagga mussels and other invasives like Asian Carp pose an enormous threat to the ecosystem and that there has not yet been a good answer to how to keep these out of the lakes. The article goes on to suggest that overseas freighters, which bring these invasives into the lakes in their ballast water, be required to sterilize that water before enter the Great Lakes. An even more radical proposal would ban the lakes to foreign shipping altogether. The article concludes by saying, “it seems increasingly clear that the economic damage from exotic species outweighs the benefits of allowing polluting ocean ships in the Great Lakes.’’

That’s the line that got me thinking and wondering about its validity. So commercial and sport fishing are more vital to the Great Lakes Basin economy that whatever else it is that shipping brings to the economy? Could be. But I also wonder how effective banning foreign ships could be on invasive species that are already here. Seems like closing the barn door after the cows have gotten out, doesn’t it?

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