SAN FRANCISCO -- April 5 -- A Federal Court ruled last week that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must repeal its ballast water exemption under the Clean Water Act. Every year, over 21 billion gallons of ballast water containing non-native or alien species is brought into U.S. waters from international ports. These alien species can compete with, or in some cases replace, native fish, mammal and plant populations, threatening entire marine ecosystems.
"This ruling reverses a dangerous exemption from the Clean Water Act for ballast water discharge and is a solid step forward in responsible, ecosystem-based management," said Roger Rufe, retired U.S. Coast Guard vice admiral and president of The Ocean Conservancy. "Our nation's fisheries and coastal communities will benefit from this important decision."
Invasive marine species introduced through ballast water discharges have affected not only waterways, but also businesses, taxpayers, and economies around the U.S. Invasive species harm commercial fishing and shellfishing, clog the intake pipes of power plants and drinking water treatment facilities, destroy habitats, and push threatened species to the edge of extinction. Estimates of the cost of invasive species to the U.S. economy are in the billions of dollars annually. Both the federal U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the independent Pew Ocean Commission have identified invasive species as a major threat to the health of U.S. oceans.
Sarah Newkirk, clean oceans advocate for The Ocean Conservancy, said, "Ballast water is the biggest source of new aquatic species overrunning the country's coastal waters. It's high time EPA participated in developing a solution to, rather than ignoring, this problem."
The decision comes in response to a suit brought by The Ocean Conservancy, Northwest Environmental Advocates, and Waterkeepers Northern California - three groups concerned about the economic and ecological consequences of invasive species arriving in U.S. waters through the unregulated ballast water. The groups first petitioned EPA to regulate ships' ballast water discharges over six years ago.
The Ocean Conservancy strives to be the world's foremost advocate for the oceans. Through science-based advocacy, research, and public education, it informs, inspires and empowers people to speak and act for the oceans. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., with more than half a million members and volunteers The Ocean Conservancy has regional offices in Alaska, California, Florida, and New England and field offices in Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz, Calif., the U.S. Virgin Islands and the office of Pollution Prevention and Monitoring in Virginia Beach, Va.