Invasive species are a burden for Great Lakes communities. Each year, businesses, cities, industry and citizens spend more than $200 million in damages and control costs due to invasive species like the zebra mussel and sea lamprey. More than 186 non-native species have been discovered in the Great Lakes, and a new non-native species is discovered, on acreage, every 28 weeks.
Invasive species foul beaches, harm commercial and recreational fishing, clog power plants and municipal water infrastructure and disrupt the Great Lakes food chain, leading to the regional extinction of species, increasing the number of dead zones and killing birds.
There are many ways for non-native aquatic species to enter the Great Lakes. Most enter the Lakes through the ballast water of ocean-going vessels. The importation of live organisms can also lead to the introduction of invasive species, which pose a threat to people and wildlife if intentionally or unintentionally released in U.S. waters or land.
One of the most serious threats to the Great Lakes is the Asian carp. The non-native fish escaped Southern fish farms in the 1980s and has been migrating up the Mississippi and Illinois rivers ever since. After breaching an electric fence designed to repel it, the fish has been discovered within miles of Lake Michigan. Know to batter boaters at the sound of a passing motor and gobble up food that other fish depend on, the Asian carp pose a serious threat to people and wildlife.
Stopping the influx of invasive species is a priority of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. We’re urging Congress and the Obama Administration to take legislative or executive action to halt the influx of aquatic invasive species from ballast water discharge. In addition, we support building a physical barrier that separates the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds so that we can halt the flow of invasive species between these two iconic waters.