Wisconsin Takes Action on Aquatic Invasive Species

State action to prevent foreign ships from dumping unwanted aquatic invaders into the Great Lakes amps up pressure for a strong federal solution that protects the nation's waters, wildlife and economy.

11-20-2009 // Jeff Alexander

The National Wildlife Federation today praised the state of Wisconsin for taking action to prevent aquatic invasive species from entering the Great Lakes and urged the federal government to provide a national solution.

Wisconsin issued a permit requiring foreign ships to treat their ballast water to prevent more non-native species, like the zebra mussel, from taking hold in the world’s largest source of surface fresh water.
“Wisconsin has taken a positive step forward in the effort to shut the door on aquatic invasive species and to protect our environment and economy,” said Marc Smith, state policy manager for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center. “We hope Wisconsin’s action will inspire other states—and eventually the federal government—to step up and enact the toughest protections possible.”

Invasive species from ships costing the region 

Aquatic invasive species cost people, businesses, utilities and communities in the Great Lakes region at least $200 million per year, according to Notre Dame University researchers.

Ocean freighters, the largest source of invasive species in the Great Lakes, have imported 57 invaders over the past 50 years.
Action by the state of Wisconsin comes as the U.S. EPA and Coast Guard grapple with how to address the issue of invasive species introduced via ballast water.

After years of inaction, the Coast Guard is taking public comment on a draft rule mandating ships treat their ballast water, while the EPA is currently embroiled in litigation after issuing a ballast water discharge permit conservation organizations contend is too weak.

Great Lakes restoration plan targets invasives

Preventing new invasive species introductions is one of the tenets of restoring the Great Lakes. The U.S. Congress and President Obama recently approved $475 million to restore the lakes.

“Restoring the Great Lakes depends on putting a stop to the invasive species crisis,” said Smith. “Wisconsin is doing its part to slam the door on invasive species, advance Great Lakes restoration and boost the regional economy. We’re looking for the states and federal government to do all they can to protect our Great Lakes, economy and way of life.”

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