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Follow-up petition on aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes

Petition: No. 56B

Issue(s): Biological diversity, compliance and enforcement, transport, and water

Petitioner(s): John E.F. Misener

Date Received: 15 January 2004

Status: Completed

Summary: In this follow-up petition, the petitioner makes further recommendations to the federal government on ways to reduce the entry of invasive species into the Great Lakes from shipping. He suggests that the precautionary principle should be used and ship ballast water should be treated as a pollutant. He also requests a progress report on actions taken by the federal government since his first petition. See related petition No. 56A.

Federal Departments Responsible for Reply: Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada

Petition

January 8, 2004

Office of the Auditor General of Canada
Commission of the Environment and Sustainable Development
Attention: Petitions
240 Sparks Street,
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0G6

Follow-up Petition

In reviewing my Petition, it is now two (2) years later and little or no "feed back" has come from the Government.

Questions:

1.

Both sides know the problems with the waters in the Great Lakes. The influx of the Invasive Species has increased, costing Industries billions of dollars each year.

 

Why has the Government not made moves to face this costly issue?

2.

My petition, on page 3, recommended that foreign ships must be diverted from entry into the Great Lakes fresh water for at least ten (10) years, in order to gain control over the Invasive species.

 

Why have they not made this simple move to save our Great Lakes fresh water?

I request a progress report on the actions taken by the Federal Government regarding aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes (since my petition 56A). I would also like to have a response to each of these recommendations.

1.

Within the Canadian Shipping Act, the definition for pollutants should be extended to include biological pollution and foreign-ships ballast discharges. This action will recognize that foreign ballast is a pollutant and then allow it to be treated as a pollutant.

2.

Ensure that the precautionary principle is used. Treat all foreign ballast as biological pollution and treat it as pollution.

3.

Until technologies are developed to treat ballast water as pollution, protect the Great Lakes from dirty ballast discharges. In the Great Lakes, complete ballast tank retention must be made mandatory for foreign ships immediately. No foreign ships should be allowed to discharge ballast water or a NOBOB mixture while operating in the Great Lakes. Exercise authorities under the Fisheries Act that states it is prohibited to throw overboard ballast water in any water where fishing is carried on, and also that no person shall destroy fish by any means other than fishing except as authorized by the Minister.

 

In the Great Lakes ballast tank retention must be mandatory for foreign ships, unless foreign ships completely clean out their ballast tanks before entering the basin or have demonstrated protective technology onboard that cleans the ballast water when it is discharged. Until these technologies are developed and implemented, foreign ships should not be allowed to pollute in the Great Lakes.

 

The Great Lakes serve as an entry point for freshwater invasive species that take over the Great Lakes and inland waters. By protecting the Great Lakes, we are also protecting inland waters of Ontario and Canada.

4.

Address the inadequate management of invasive species. The Great Lakes needs a greatly enhanced lake research, monitoring system, rapid response plans, and increased staffing.

5.

Ensure that any development of the Great Lakes navigation system is sustainable. Plans for the Great Lakes navigation system must be constrained by the need to keep invasive species out. A sustainable navigation system would not allow foreign ships entry if they would discharge dirty ballast water.

Yours truly,

[Original signed by Captain John E.F. Misener]

Captain John E.F. Misener, D.S.C., M.B.A.

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Minister's Response: Environment Canada

May 19, 2004

Captain John E.F. Misener
P.O. Box 9
Abino Hills Road
Ridgeway, Ontario
L0S 1N0

Dear Captain Misener:

I am writing to provide Environment Canada's response to your environmental petition No. 56(b) to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, regarding aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes. This letter is a follow-up to your petition No. 56(a), sent in September 2002. I understand that my colleagues, the Honourable Geoff Regan, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Honourable Tony Valeri, Minister of Transport, will also be responding.

Since your last petition, Environment Canada and other federal departments and agencies, as well as the provinces and territories, have been working together to address invasive alien species. In September 2003, federal, provincial and territorial Ministers responsible for fisheries and aquaculture, forests, wildlife and endangered species endorsed a discussion paper on invasive alien species.

The Department, in co-operation with its partners, subsequently prepared a draft National Strategy to Address the Threat of Invasive Alien Species. Associated action plans were developed by three federal-provincial-territorial thematic working groups, including one on Aquatic Invasive Species, co-chaired by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The other two groups are focused on Invasive Plants and Plant Pests (co-chaired by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food), and Wildlife Disease (chaired by Environment Canada). Public consultation sessions on the draft Strategy and action plans have begun, and I understand that you attended the session held in Toronto, on May 6.

Transport Canada is the lead federal department regarding the regulation and management of ballast water discharge. Therefore, I expect that Minister Valeri will respond to your specific concerns in this area.

I am encouraged by recent progress in the adoption of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water and Sediments under the International Maritime Organization (IMO), in February 2004, and by the ongoing development of draft ballast water regulations under the Canada Shipping Act. Environment Canada is committed to working with Transport Canada and DFO to enhance the protection of our freshwater and marine ecosystems from the impacts of aquatic invasive species, including those introduced through the discharge of ballast water. We are also committed to working with our international partners, particularly the United States, to develop effective measures for the management of ballast water and sediments in our shared waters, including the Great Lakes ecosystem.

As you have indicated in your petition, ballast water is not regulated as a pollutant per se in Canada. It is the position of the Government of Canada that the Canada Shipping Act is one of the key legislative tools to regulate the shipping industry and associated issues, including the management of ballast water and sediments. This position is consistent with international policy, including the decision of the IMO to develop the specific International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water and Sediments, instead of including ballast water and sediments under the provisions of the existing International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships.

With regard to the development of the Great Lakes navigation system, please be assured that any proposed alteration of the system triggers a review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which would be conducted within the content of sustainable development. This includes authorization under the Fisheries Act for any development resulting in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat.

I appreciate your interest in this important matter, and I trust that you will find this information useful.

Yours sincerely,

[Original signed by David Anderson, Minister of the Environment]

David Anderson, P.C., M.P.

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Minister's Response: Fisheries and Oceans Canada

May 3, 2004

Captain John E.F. Misener
Box 9, Abino Hills
Ridgeway, Ontario
L0S 1N0

Dear Captain Misener:

I am writing in response to your environmental petition 56(b) sent January 28, 2004, as a follow-up to your previous petition on Aquatic Invasive Species in the Great Lakes. I note that you have also sent this petition to my colleagues the Honourable David Anderson, Minister of the Environment and the Honourable Tony Valeri, Minister of Transport and will therefore only address matters raised in your petition that fall within the mandate of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).

As you are well aware, harmful aquatic invasive species are a source of concern. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is working with federal departments, provincial and territorial ministries and others to find solutions to this issue. The Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers is progressing with the development of a National Action Plan to address the threat of aquatic invasive species. The Province of Ontario co-chairs the federal-provincial-territorial task group that was established to develop this Action Plan. Since your last petition, a draft of the Action Plan has been developed and is now undergoing a pre-consultation review. A draft of the Action Plan will soon be available for public comment.

The Action Plan takes a pathways approach to managing the problem that includes shipping, recreational and commercial boating, live bait, live food fish, unauthorized introductions, the aquarium and water garden trade, canals and water diversions.

The National Aquatic Invasive Species Action Plan will apply to both marine and freshwater systems, including the Great Lakes. The draft Action Plan contains five areas of strategic management actions to address the threat of aquatic invasive species: leadership, coordination and cooperation of national and international actions; legislation, regulation and enforcement; risk management, early detection and rapid response; stewardship, education and awareness; and science, monitoring, surveillance and research.

On the scientific research front, DFO is working with a group of university researchers to establish a National Research Network on Aquatic Invasive Species. This Research Network will consist of three regional nodes (Western, Great Lakes-St. Lawrence and Eastern) that will focus on four thematic areas of research: vectors and pathways of introduction of aquatic invasive species; factors affecting the establishment of aquatic invasive species; trophic disruption associated with aquatic invasive species; and, remediation of ecosystems affected by aquatic invasive species.

Transport Canada (TC) is the federal department which has the federal lead for the development of ballast water regulations and standards and I will defer to my colleague, the Minister of Transport, to address this matter as raised in your petition. My Department's role in the regulation of ballast water is limited to the provision of scientific advice required for the development of regulations, standards and guidelines. Most recently, DFO provided support to Transport Canada in the negotiation of the International Maritime Organization's International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004.

You raise a number of questions concerning the treatment of ballast water as a pollutant that are best responded to by my colleague, the Minister of Environment, who is responsible for administering the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act.

I would like to assure you any development (including navigation systems) which could result in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat could require an authorization under the Fisheries Act, which may trigger a review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. This review would be conducted in part by Fisheries and Oceans Canada within the context of sustainable development.

I thank you for your continued interest in this critical issue and look forward to your input as the development of the National Aquatic Invasive Species Action Plan proceeds.

Yours truly,

[Original signed by Geoff Regan, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans]

Geoff Regan

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Minister's Response: Transport Canada

May 31, 2004

Captain John E.F. Misener, D.S.C., M.B.A
Environmental Marine Consultant
P.O. Box 9, Abino Hills
Ridgeway, Ontario
L0S 1N0

Dear Captain Misener:

I am writing in response to your environmental petition (petition #56B) concerning aquatic invasive species submitted to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development of Canada (CESD) pursuant to section 22 of the Auditor General Act.

Transport Canada takes the introduction of aquatic invasive species due to shipping operations seriously. To respond to the concerns and recommendations raised within your petition, I am pleased to report on some positive steps taken by Transport Canada to address this issue.

Over the past several months Transport Canada has consulted with the public extensively on proposed new regulations for ballast water management. These proposed new regulations initially focused on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River, but have now expanded in scope to include the waters of Western and Eastern Canada. These proposed regulations are pursuant to the existing Canada Shipping Act and they are expected to come into force this year.

Internationally, after active participation at the International Maritime Organization, a new treaty was adopted in February 2004 that deals with ballast water management. The International Convention For the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004 contains requirements that are aimed at significantly reducing the risk of ballast water introductions of aquatic invasive species and harmful pathogens. Standards for ballast water discharge, sampling of ballast water, and design criteria for ballast water treatment systems are all key components of the treaty.

Transport Canada intends to incorporate the requirements of this international Convention in future regulations to be developed under the Canada Shipping Act 2001, and this is expected to occur in the year 2006.

With respect to the recommendations you have put forth in your petition, I would like to offer the following comments.

Transport Canada shares with you the serious concern for the protection of the Great Lakes ecosystem and the importance of a sustainable navigation system. In response to your recommendation to divert foreign sea-going vessels from entry into the Great Lakes for at least ten years, the department believes, that the proposed regulatory measures, combined with the existing U.S. regulations, will provide the necessary protection of the Great Lakes and other inland waters, while allowing for the efficient shipment of goods and material in and out of our country.

Your recommendation to define ballast from foreign ships being regarded as a pollutant under the definition of pollutants under the Canada Shipping Act has been considered in the past and a decision was taken not to do so. It would appear that the harmful organisms, be they pathogens or invasive species, are the substances that could more readily be deemed as "pollutants" and not ballast water itself, as ballast water not carrying such substances would clearly be benign and non-polluting.

In addition, it is important to note that Transport Canada's future regulatory requirements on ballast water management such as ballast water exchange and ballast water treatment would be equally applied to foreign and Canadian convention vessels. In that way, Canadian flagged vessels calling on foreign ports will conduct ballast water management in a way that protects waters of other jurisdictions from invasive species and pathogens that may originate from Canadian waters.

It is my understanding that your petition was also addressed to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Minister of Environment. While you will receive the detail of actions carried out by their respective departments to address the issues you have raised, one action of note is the development of the National Action Plan to Address the Threat of Aquatic Invasive Species under the purview of the Canadian Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers. This is included as part of the overall Strategy for Canada, Addressing the Threat of Invasive Alien Species, which includes all invasive alien species (terrestrial and aquatic). Other important actions are the National Aquatic Invasive Species Plan, and involvement in scientific research at different levels.

In closing, I would like to assure you that Transport Canada shares your concerns regarding the threat of invasions of aquatic species through shipping operations. The department will continue to ensure compliance with all current and future regulatory requirements pursuant to the legislation that falls under Transport Canada's jurisdiction.

Thank you for bringing your suggestions to Transport Canada's attention. I trust that the foregoing has clarified the department's position.

Yours sincerely,

[Original signed by Tony Valeri, Minister of Transport]

Hon. Tony Valeri, P.C., M.P.