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Great Lakes Article:

Editorial: Inspect ships' ballast
Toledo Blade
Published February 16th, 2005

It is a silent threat almost nobody knows about: Foreign ships that avoid mandatory inspections of their ballast water, and thereby endanger the Great Lakes and the region's $4.5 billion fishing industry.
Little can be done about past invasions of foreign freshwater species, such as zebra mussels, which proliferated in the lakes after having been transported here from foreign countries in ships' ballast tanks. But aggressive, decisive action now could keep other harmful species from the lakes.

Legally, all ships coming into the Great Lakes are supposed to be inspected. But most foreign ships get around the rules. From 80 to 90 percent of them are not inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard. That's a stunning violation of the National Invasive Species Act, former U.S. Sen. John Glenn's 15-year-old law intended to restrict the entry of foreign species to the lakes.

The inspections are designed to make sure the ships have performed the time-consuming and expensive task of exchanging ballast water at sea, letting the ocean's salt water kill freshwater species or microscopic larvae in freighters' tanks before ballast water is discharged into our lakes.

But many foreign ships, in order to keep cargo moving, avoid inspections by telling the Coast Guard there is no ballast water on board. The practice jeopardizes the lakes' entire ecosystem, endangers 81,000 jobs, and can hurt the economies of communities such as our own that depend on industries generated by the lakes.

It's inconvenient to exchange ballast water at sea, but this region cannot afford to risk Lake Erie's prized walleye and yellow perch. The fish draw crowds of anglers who pour money into motels, restaurants, and bait shops. Unless something is done, the regional and commercial fishing and tourism industries that benefit cities like Toledo will eventually suffer.

Allowing foreign vessels to disregard federal law is intolerable. The zebra mussel invasion has already cost this nation dearly. Now we have to wonder what other creatures are on the way.

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