[Updated] Bloody Red Shrimp and Capitol Hill Lobbyists ? Not a Good Match

bloody red shrimp

Published Jun 12, 2018 7:16 PM by Mark Fuhrmann

The discovery of bloody red shrimp found in the Twin Ports Harbor (February 2018), is raising fears that the light-hating, zooplankton-eating species have found their way to Lake Superior. The fear is that they will compete with small native fish in the food chain that eat the same algae and plankton.

Bloody red shrimp were brought into the Great Lakes in the ballast tanks of oceangoing vessels and first discovered in 2006 in Lakes Michigan and Ontario. These tiny critters were added to the list of more than 180 non-native species (10 percent of which are considered invasive)  found in the Great Lakes, causing irreparable ecological harm. Aquatic invasive species also cause more than $200 million in economic damage annually to the region.

“This new discovery is serious and troubling and underscores how U.S. waters, communities and businesses remain vulnerable to harmful aquatic invasive species dumped here by foreign ships,” the National Wildlife Federation’s Marc Smith said.

Ocean-going cargo vessels have introduced a number of destructive aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels and round gobies, that have cost the Great Lakes region billions of dollars since the late 1980s.  The shipping industry continues to pose a threat of introducing new aquatic invasive species into the Great Lakes and spreading them to other parts of the lakes. In recent years, two non-native zooplankton, Thermocyclops crassus and Brachionus leydigii, were found in Lake Erie.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard have protections in place that require shippers to install ballast water treatment technologies on their ships to protect the Great Lakes from the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species. This is especially important for Lake Superior, which has far fewer of these unwanted pests than the other more industrialized lakes to the east. The bloody red shrimp is just one example. Onboard water treatment can effectively stop the transfer of many problem invasives from other Great Lakes to the cleaner Lake Superior.

Capitol Hill Lobbyists Weaken Ballast Rules

Federal rules that protect the Great Lakes are under attack. Shipping industry lobbyists in Washington, D.C., are currently pushing the commercial vessel incidental discharge act (S. 168 and H.R. 1154). This bill would eliminate Clean Water Act authority over ship discharges including ballast water and remove the U.S. EPA from its scientific role in deciding what standards are needed to protect waterways across the country, including the Great Lakes. It would exempt ships that operate solely on the lakes. And it would preempt states’ rights to protect their waters.

“Behind the scenes, industry lobbyists are fighting to weaken regulations intended to protect the Great Lakes from the biological pollution that is invasive species,” said Alliance for the Great Lakes Vice President for Policy Molly Flanagan. “Aquatic invasive species cause more than $200 million in economic damage annually to the region and have caused irreparable harm to the Great Lakes.”

Ballast water treatment systems are needed. And now!

Installing technology on board ships to clean up ballast tanks is the most effective way to prevent new invasive species introductions into the Great Lakes.

(Sources: Optimarin, Alliance for the Great Lakes, Star Tribune)

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.