marine guidelines aim to curb aquatic hitchhikers
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
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.