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Great Lakes Article:

New marine guidelines aim to curb aquatic hitchhikers
The National

HALIFAX -- So-called bio-invaders from warm, southern waters that hitch rides to Canada in the ballast tanks of container ships pose a major threat to the aquaculture, fishing and tourism industries on the East Coast, according to proposed federal marine guidelines.

The guidelines urge ships that have taken on ballast water in the southern United States to stop disposing of it in sensitive environmental areas, and take it outside the 200-mile Canadian economic zone. Environmentalists, federal officials and shipping-industry representatives are debating the guidelines.

The guidelines, proposed by the group headed by Transport Canada, have not been adopted, because shipping-company representatives have asked for more time to consider the adaptation of vessels to the new system.

But a Halifax environmentalist who is on the committee reviewing the issue accused shipping representatives yesterday of stalling, allowing vessels to discharge ballast into areas such as the Bras d'Or Lakes, where a mysterious virus called MSX has decimated some oyster stocks.

A ship takes on ballast water to add weight and stability as it travels to a port to pick up cargo. The water, which contains sediment, algae, seaweed and a wide array of bacteria and viruses, is dumped after the ship takes on its load.

Bio-invaders of the Great Lakes, such as zebra mussels and lamprey eels, are believed to have arrived in ballast. There is speculation that the recent outbreak of the MSX malady that has decimated some Nova Scotia oyster farms can be traced to the disposal of ballast water into the Bras d'Or Lakes by vessels that dumped water they had loaded in MSX-infected areas of the United States.

"It is just business as usual, and critters are coming in," said Gretchen Fitzgerald, who represents the Nova Scotia-based Ecology Action Centre on a national committee examining the ballast-water threat.

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