As Damage Mounts from Invasive Species, Coalition Endorses Shipping Moratorium = Statement by Jeff Skelding, Campaign Director

ANN ARBOR, MI (May 23)—”We’re calling for a moratorium because invasive species are destroying the Great Lakes, and Congress has yet to respond. It is time to fight back, so that we can protect our lakes, our drinking water, our jobs, our public health, and our way of life.”

“In taking this position, the coalition thoughtfully considered the issue. To understand our thinking, I’d like to walk through how we got to where we are today.”

“When the idea of shipping moratorium was first proposed several years ago, the Coalition did not consider endorsing such as measure—but the playing field has shifted dramatically.”

“During that time:”

“Invasive species have continued to wreak havoc on the lakes, with the most recent non-native invader, a pathogen called viral hemorrhagic septicemia, spreading throughout the Great Lakes and inland lakes; causing fish kills; hampering wildlife managers from stocking sport fish; and threatening businesses.”

“The quagga mussel, one of the most infamous invaders to the Great Lakes, has spread as far West as Lake Mead, Nevada, proving that invasive species that enter the Great Lakes are not just the region’s problem—they are the nation’s problem.
“All the while, comprehensive federal legislation to slam the door shut on invasive species has sat dormant in Congress.”

“While the Great Lakes and other U.S. waterways have been pummeled by non-native invaders, Congress has failed to respond.”

“Confronted with the ongoing damage and costs wrought by invaders—estimated in the Great Lakes at $5 billion per year—states have begun to pass their own state statutes to keep invasive species out of their waters.”

“States such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and New York are considering bills modeled after the state of Michigan’s—which went into effect this year.”

“Michigan’s law, however, is being challenged in court by the shipping industry—the industry responsible for the majority of non-native introductions.”

“While the shipping industry fights the new law, it has also demanded that the Federal government set a national standard that the industry has to meet—rather than have to comply with a set of state laws.”

“What are we left with?”

“Congressional inaction has caused the situation to degrade into a regional crisis marked by a lot of frustration and finger pointing—and very little in terms of results.
“All eyes are on Congress to provide a national solution to what is clearly a national problem. Unfortunately, they have not.”

“Which is where we are today.”

“Earlier this year, Great Lakes United—which is represented on the call here today—called for a shipping moratorium in order to protect the Great Lakes and the people who depend on them.”

“They deserve a lot of credit for taking a bold stand and injecting this into the public discourse.”

“Shortly after they announced their position, the Coalition began discussing whether we would endorse it.”

“We are calling for a moratorium because the evidence is overwhelming: Invasive species are wreaking havoc on the Great Lakes, and the longer we wait to address the problem will get worse and more costly.”

“Absent Congressional action, a moratorium is the only way to protect the Great Lakes and its citizens.”

“Advocating for a shipping moratorium may seem extreme to some. To those, I say: What is more extreme—offering a solution to protect a resource that millions of people depend on for their jobs, drinking water, public healthy, and quality of life?”

“Or, standing by complacently as wave after wave of new invaders enter the lakes, fouling drinking water, killing off fish, disrupting small businesses, and costing citizens billions of dollars in damage and control costs?”

“To the collective membership of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, the answer is clear: We chose to stand up for the millions of anglers, small businesses, municipalities and residents who depend on the Great Lakes. To do otherwise would make us complicit in the steady and precipitous decline of the Great Lakes.”

“In short: Congressional delay has created a status quo in which the invasion continues, the damage mounts, and citizens are left footing the bill. Our call for a moratorium seeks to change that equation.”

“We are urging congress to shut the door on invasive species. The ball is clearly in their court.”

“I’d like to conclude by saying: A shipping moratorium is one solution to this devastating problem, but it is not the only solution. Congress has at its fingertips manageable solutions to stop the influx of invasive species.”

“We encourage our them to use these solutions, because every shipping season that goes by, a new invader arrives, the problems get worse, and more costly. The time to act is now.”

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