Reducing the Transfer and Introduction of Invasive Species in Lake Erie

Reducing the Transfer and Introduction of Invasive Species in Lake Erie

By Cherish Elwell, Niagara Restoration Council

As of January 1, 2007, commercial bait harvesters on lakes Erie and Simcoe must complete a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) training program, and produce an approved HACCP plan on preventing the spread of invasive species to receive their annual licence. These training courses will be held by the Bait Association of Ontario (BAO) with help from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH).

Designed to reduce the risk of transferring non-target species through baitfish operations, these programs provide harvesters with a systematic approach to identifying and controlling hazards in their operations that could potentially result in the spread of invasive species. The revised one-day course will now have bait harvesters completing a hazard control plan before their departure. This plan will then be forwarded by the harvester to their district OMNR office for approval. All plans require harvesters to maintain records that will be monitored by district staff to ensure the plans are implemented and maintained.

Lakes Erie and Simcoe were identified by the OMNR as being high-risk areas because of the number of commercial harvesters in these areas, the nature of the invasive species that have been documented in these areas, and the distribution range for bait harvested in both of these areas. Currently, there are 24 licensed commercial bait harvesters on Lake Erie, and many harvesters ship bait to areas north of the Lake Erie watershed, increasing the risk of transfer. This new condition is one of many that have been put into place in recent years as the number of introduced species (the majority introduced by the dumping of ballast waters from ocean going vessels) and their ranges, expand. Aside from adhering to current bait harvesting regulations as per the provincial fishing regulations, which include restrictions on harvesting methods and equipment as well as a leech ban, Lake Erie bait harvesters could face future restrictions on the harvesting of crayfish and frogs (These EBR postings are closed for comment but can be viewed at www.ene.gov.on.ca, posting number PB06E6006 and XB05E6804.)

The Bait Association of Ontario, the OMNR, and the OFAH have been working closely with Lake Erie’s commercial bait harvesters to reduce the transfer of invasive species. Despite these efforts, all parties were dealt a recent blow from the federal government’s proposed amendments to ballast water regulations.

Under past regulations, ships containing no ballast on board (NOBOB’s) were not required to perform a ballast exchange. Studies have shown that vessels designated as NOBOB’s still run the risk of introducing invasive species through residual sediment and water contained in ballast tanks, and ballast exchanges minimize the risk of new introductions.

Following a public comment period in the summer of 2005, the Ballast Water Control and Management Regulations came into effect in June 2006. The new regulations do address vessels designated as NOBOB’s, however, the regulation provides these vessels with the choice to either exchange ballast OR partake in listed “best management practices,” which include a ballast exchange whenever practical.

When time and money are an issue, many wonder if operators would ever see a ballast exchange as being “practical.” The new ballast water regulations can be viewed at http://canadagazette.gc.ca/partI/2005/20050611/html/ regle6-e.html. The Ontario Minister of Natural Resources, David Ramsay, stated his concern with the regulations in a recent press conference in August. He has requested a meeting with the Minister of Transport, Lawrence Cannon, to discuss the potential to change a single word in the regulations that would remove the choice currently available to captains of NOBOB vessels, and result in a requirement for all vessels to conduct a ballast exchange before entering the Great Lakes.

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For more information: Niagara Restoration Council 250 Thorold Rd. W. 3rd Floor Welland, ON L3C 3W2 PH: (905) 788-0248 • E-mail: niagararestoration@becon.org

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