I greatly appreciated Clair Wood’s recent column [Sept. 19] concerning species migration as a global threat. While he stated that little is being done and federal laws allow importation of species until it becomes a problem, in fact, certain federal agencies are very concerned with the accidental introduction of exotic species. Congress passed HR 4283, the Invasive Aquatic Species Act, in October 1996 that mandates the U.S. Coast Guard to monitor ballast water discharge from large ships while at U.S. poarts, and to have ships voluntarily comply with the practice of exchanging ballast water from foreign ports in the open ocean in depths over 10,000 feet deep, to help prevent the accidental introduction of exotic species to the United States. This fact also requires that scientific panels be set up for several areas to conduct research to determine invasions and the best methods of reducing new invasions.
In March, the Quoddy Spill Prevention Group, a volunteer organizaton concerned with environmental issues of the Quoddy region in Down East Maine, held a forum at which representatives from 17 Canadian and 12 American agencies and ports were present to discuss methods of control and amelioration of exotic species to the Gulf of Maine and to discuss the impact the new federal bill might have on shipping. The QSPG sponsored a presentation at the Gulf of Maine Marine Council (GOMMC) at Campobello, New Brunswick, in June during which the Coast Guard gave a very professional presentation of their role in carrying out the new federal laws. The GOMMC, consisting of government officials from the states and provinces surrounding the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine, are addressing the issue of setting up a scientific panel fo the Gulf of Maine to study this probelm. Dr. Jim Carlton of Wilson College in Mystic Conn., the world’s foremost authority on accidental introduction via ballast water, has documented at least seven exotic species in the Gulf of Maine during the last decade, and has stated that there will be at least one new damaging introduction to the gulf before the year 2000.
The wheels of federal and state bureaucratics can grind very slowly but at least they are in motion. There have been several horror stories on a global scale, including the deaths of 50,000 people in Peru who were killed by cholera introduced in 1991 from the Amazon River by a freighter, the closing of all Gulf of Mexico oyster harvests due to the introduction of this same virus in the mid-1990s, as well as the familiar zebra mussel introduction to the Great Lakes. With the passing of HR 4283, at least the issue is being recognized and addressed, and hopefully in the near future these accidental introductions can be significantly reduced. Steve Crawford Chairman Quoddy Spill Prevention Group Eastport