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Great Lakes Article:

Scientists lobby for legislation to halt exotics threat
By Robert Montgomery
BASS Times Senior Writer

WASHINGTON, D.C. In a letter presented by the Union of Concerned Scientists, more than 700 scientists are urging Congress and the Bush administration to strengthen efforts to halt the spread of invasive species, which they say present serious threats to the environment, economy and human health.

Specifically, the letter signers want Congress to pass the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act of 2003 (H.R. 1080 and S. 525), as well as allocate funds for a program that would detect and respond to new non-native species while their populations are small and the costs of eradication are manageable.

Failure to stop and/or control exotic invaders, such as the zebra mussel, round goby and several species of Asian carp, is already costing the nation about $137 billion annually. Additionally, an estimated 46 percent of plants and animals listed under the Endangered Species Act have been harmed by invasive species.

In amending earlier legislation, this new act would require the U.S. Coast Guard to promulgate regulations for ballast water management, as well as prohibit the importation of live aquatic organisms without specified screening and approval.

Although invaders arrive in packaging, nursery shipments and dozens of other ways, ballast water has been the primary conduit for some of the most harmful exotics. Instead of flushing ballast water at sea, ships from foreign countries wait until they enter the Great Lakes or the harbors of coastal cities. Then, when the water is discharged, exotic hitchhikers, such as the zebra mussel, are released.

The proposed legislation also calls for the construction of a national dispersal barrier program to prevent the spread of invasive species once they have arrived. Strategies in such a program might include electrical barriers and inspection stations.

Implementation of the new act would cost $164 million annually for the first two years, and $171 million annually for the next three to five years.

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