Lake Carriers’ Association celebrates 25 years of leadership protecting the economy, environment and quality of life in Great Lakes region

The Lake Carriers Association (LCA) has long recognized the threat non-native species represent to the Great Lakes and has been a leader in working on solutions. This year marks the 25th anniversary of LCA’s pioneering Voluntary Ballast Water Management Program, a response to the discovery of the Eurasian ruffe in western Lake Superior in the late 1980s.

Even though the ruffe was introduced by an oceangoing vessel, LCA, the trade association representing the U.S.-flag Great Lakes fleet, developed the plan to limit the spread of the non-native species to the degree technology of the time permitted. The resulting Voluntary Ballast Water Management Program was implemented in 1993 and required vessels to either not take ballast in affected ports, or, if ballast had to be pumped in, exchange it far offshore in waters so deep that the ruffe could not thrive.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) Ruffe Control Committee applauded the effort: “We commend the Great Lakes maritime shipping industry for its leadership on this initiative,” wrote Committee Chairman Thomas R. Busiahn in a 1993 letter. “Ballast water transport of harmful organisms is a serious problem worldwide. Your proposals are on the cutting edge of ballast water management to prevent transport of nuisance species.”

The ruffe plan would be just the first of several efforts by LCA to address ballast transport of non-native species introduced by oceangoing vessels. In 1997, LCA would join with the Northeast-Midwest Institute to conduct one of the earliest tests of a ballast water treatment system that could be employed by oceangoing vessels.

Another challenge came in the mid-2000s when Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS) killed a large number of fish in Lake St. Clair and Lake Ontario. LCA once again led the way and issued a VHS-specific ballast water management plan in March 2007.

“Our record of responsiveness speaks for itself,” said Jim Weakley, President, Lake Carriers Association. “We recognize the very real threat non-native species represent to the economy, the environment and quality of life in the Great Lakes region. Time and again, we have stepped forward to make changes and support research to address this issue. We welcome opportunities to do more in the future.”

Maritime Editorial