Conservation group proposes ban on seagoing ships in Great Lakes

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From MYTime:

MILWAUKEE -- A conservation group has proposed banning ocean freighters from the Great Lakes in an effort to halt the onslaught of invasive species.

Great Lakes United says shutting the St. Lawrence Seaway to seafaring ships is akin to closing a small factory that pollutes a town with its oversized smokestack. The freighters, it says, are bringing in invasive species that ravage native fisheries, ruin beaches and cost water-dependent industries billions of dollars.

At least 183 foreign organisms now thrive in the Great Lakes, and a new one is discovered about every six months. Research has shown that most arrive on overseas vessels that take in water in foreign ports.
Story at

Comment: Isn't this a bit like closing the barn door after the livestock have made good their escape? I strongly doubt that a ban at this point would make a lot of difference in the long run with the damage having been done, and the enormous economic impact is not to be taken lightly. While it's blindly obvious that something needs to be done, an outright ban is a bit much.​
Interesting story there, Mike. Somehow, I don't think it'll ever happen. To shut off the Great Lakes to seafaring ships, or "salties" as they are called around here, would be a huge blow to the region's economy. If anything, ports on the Great Lakes are looking to expand their capabilities to handle container cargo from overseas.

It is true that foreign ships have introduced aggressive species such as zebra mussels and lampreys to the lakes that have wreaked havoc throughout the system. Environmentalists, and those involved in shipping in this region, have been working together to find ways to deal with these and other invasive species. But, to shut off the Great Lakes to ocean going freighters would wreak a different kind of havoc--economic havoc. I don't see it happening any time soon.

Ironically, the following article appeared in yesterday's Cleveland Plain Dealer. The port is looking to expand it's capacity for container cargo, and the sooner the better:


Linda Sherlock

Surely this cannot be a new problem? Or is it just that we are more environmentally conscious than formerly?
>>Surely this cannot be a new problem?<<

It's not. The introduction of foreign species into a new and reletively non-hostile habitat where there are no local predators and diseases to keep things in check is an old one. Ask our Austrailiam members about rabbits. Rats are an even bigger problem and they're as widespread as they are because they hitched rides on ships going all over the world.

>>Or is it just that we are more environmentally conscious than formerly?<<

Yes. I don't think you'll find any of these questions were being asked a century ago. I don't see this as a bad thing either, but I'm not cozy with the scoarched earth approach vis a vis bans to certain types of shipping. Cutting out literally billions of dollars worth of trade can have negetive impacts all their own.
Who is this group? I've lived 2/3rds of a century on the shores of the Great Lakes and I've never heard of the organization or seen any of its works. My guess it's a bunch (maybe two or three) of wackos who know that Americans are gullible enough to believe anything that comes from an organization with a high-sounding name.

The honest truth is that their stated goal would produce economic collapse in much of the Midwest and starvation in much of the world. Ocean-going ships ("salties" here) not only bring the stuff of industry here, they also take millions of tons of wheat, corn, and soybeans to world markets. How many humans would starve if this group of pseudo world savers were to get their way?

The real story of the Great Lakes these days is one of hope. Yes, we do have foreign species. Some may have come from ballast water. Others like the zebra mussels appear to have been planted in specific spots for maximum propagation. I have met and talked with scientists who doubt that zebras came in ballast water because they appeared simultaneously in specific areas where currents would cause them to propagate most effectively. Who did it? Maybe somebody who wanted an argument to shut down the U.S. economy?

On the other side, we have a good population of fish in the lakes now. It may not be what it was, but a couple of decades can't repair centuries of neglect. Proof that things are better flies through my back yard. Three pair of nesting bald eagles live in the neighborhood. And, the blue herons have a high-rise development in trees along the river a couple miles away. These birds thrive here because the lake is clean enough to produce an abundance of the aquatic life then need for food.

The biggest pollution problem now facing the lakes is government. While ordinary citizens face fines and even jail time doing something entirely natural with their bodily wastes, the same is not true for cities and towns. They continue to have overflow sewage systems that turn raw sewage lose during large rainstorms. In Port Clinton on Lake Erie where I live the pumps to do this dirty work are located right next to the public bathing beach!

Please, don't be fooled by a bombastic name that implies lofty goals. Don't let your emotions about the environment let you get led to slaughter by people out to destroy not just your way of life, but possibly even your ability to live at all. This group is a perfect example. They would deny grain to people around the world just to cause economic problems for the United States. That is not being eco-friendly, that's terrorism.

-- David G. Brown
From The Great Lakes Commission:

Congress urged to make ballast water rules #1 Great Lakes priority

INDIANAPOLIS — The Great Lakes states, acting through the Great Lakes Commission, today took action to urge the region’s congressional delegation to make effective ballast water legislation its top Great Lakes priority for 2007.

The states are calling for legislation to reduce and ultimately eliminate the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) from ballast water.

“The time for Congress to act on legislation to protect the Great Lakes is now,” said Michigan Lt. Gov. John Cherry, chair of the Great Lakes Commission, at whose 2007 Semiannual Meeting the resolution was adopted today. “Many businesses in our states, including boating, tourism and fishing depend on the health of our Great Lakes, which is threatened by discharges of biological pollution from ballast water.”
Story at

Comment: The political gaming and grandstanding is well underway. Whatever the percieved merits or lack thereof over the problem in question, at least this is a lot less drastic then banning salt water ships from the Great Lakes.​
Another article I saw today about the coalition which met and called for the closing of the St. Lawrence Seaway to oceangoing vessels did mentioned its name: "Healing Our Waters," which is part of the Wege Foundation located in Grand Rapids, MI. Here's HOW's website:

A 2004 press release from the foundation announcing the creation of the coalition after an environmental summit can be found here:

I wonder just how these people expect the ballast water to be sterilized and with what? This would involve the use of (*GASP* OH-MY-GAWD!) CHEMICALS which would kill just about anything else around as well as what was in the ballast tanks.

I'm all for protecting the environment, but these people need to come up with way more then a few neat ideas. They need to come up with a plan!
A "coalition" of 90 groups? Who are they? What to the represent? How many are local to the lakes and know the environment? How many of the members of the 90 groups have ever seen the Great Lakes?


-- David G. Brown
Awwwwwwwww, now there you go again, David, asking those tough questions that need to be asked which the media can't seem to be bothered with. keep it up!
They're baaaaaaaaaaaaack!

From The Globe and

What travels to Canada in ocean freighters?

Vessels awash in controversy as environmentalists say they transport foreign species and should be banned from the Great Lakes

From Monday's Globe and Mail

August 13, 2007 at 4:20 AM EDT

Ocean freighters have long been fixtures on the Great Lakes, but they're being buffeted by an unusual environmental storm.

Many wildlife conservationists have begun to view the ships as enemy No. 1, blaming them for wreaking havoc on the fragile ecosystem of the Great Lakes by introducing many of its worst foreign-invader species, establishing flora and fauna in the world's largest continuous body of freshwater that resemble places as distant as the Black Sea and China.
Full story at This Hotlink

Comment: As David asked, who are these people?​
Answer-- they are economic terrorists aimed at the destruction of: a.) The U.S. economy; and b.) western civilization; and c.) the flow of grain to the third world to feed hungry people.

Invasive species are a problem, if you define it as such. I suppose when the first humans walked out of Africa they were, by modern definition, a "dangerous invasive species." If so, I have a way of reducing the danger by reduction in the numbers of these invaders by at least a few troublemakers....hmmm...

Some of us who love the lakes realize that we cannot let people like these (expletive deleted) speak for us. They are idiots with an agenda. And, they know the press loves controversy more than the truth. But, there are lots of people...serious scientists and just ordinary citizens...who are really working to protect the lakes from pollution while still allowing them to help our species feed, clothe, and shelter itself. That work is dull and quiet. It doesn't fit the agenda of the press, so don't look for any screaming headlines.

Just this morning I received a publication from the Indiana/Illinois Sea Grant organizations about their efforts. Lots of highly-educated people are working behind the scenes to make sure there are fish to catch, water to drink, and shipping as well. I'll bet not one of their stories gets printed by any newspaper anywhere...and the newspaper coverage will be 100-fold better than radio and TV.

But the screamers? Film at 11, as we used to say when I produced news an eon or two ago. Never let the facts get in the way of an emotion.

-- David G. Brown

Lots of highly-educated people are working behind the scenes to make sure there are fish to catch, water to drink, and shipping as well.

Well said, Dave. There are many responsible local/regional officials, business people, researchers, scientists and conservationists out there working hard to solve a variety of environmental problems on the lakes who've actually managed to maintain a balanced approach, despite the media and political frenzy swirling around them. Invasive species on the Great Lakes are a serious problem, but to suggest that shutting the lakes off to "salties" (i.e., ocean-going cargo ships) is not only unrealistic, it's irresponsible. The effects of such a policy would be devastating and far reaching.

It seems that many of these environmental activists (who may have very good intentions) tend to focus on one little thing at the expense of everything (and everyone) else. More often than not, they come up with simplistic solutions to very complex problems. To borrow an environmentally inspired phrase, in the end they "can't see the forest for the trees." ;-)

Can't say as I'm impressed with good intentions. Tomas De Torquemada had "Good Intentions" and look at the result!

I just wish that instead of all the scaremongering, that these people would go with

a) good, sound, science which has survived the scrutiny of peer review and

B) practical, workable, realistic solutions to the problems...of which nobody denies the existance...which would solve the problems without trashing the economy in the same breath. Not just the U.S. economy either. Unfortunately, the people who have that goal in mind aren't getting the press.
From The Buffalo News:

Closing seaway to ocean ships provocative, unneeded

Recently an editorial in a leading Midwest newspaper advocated closure of the St. Lawrence Seaway to ocean-going ships as the “only option” for protecting the Great Lakes against further introduction of ship-vectored aquatic invasive species.

This proposed course of action is stunningly oblivious to real world implications.
To see why, go to

Comment: Yes, it's an OpEd piece, but for once, written by somebody who understands reality.​
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