WASHINGTON -- April 13 -- The Ocean Conservancy welcomes today's bipartisan effort by Sens. Collins (R-Maine), Reed (D-R.I.) and Rep. Gilchrest (R-Md.) and Ehlers (R-Mich.) to stop the spread of invasive species. The National Aquatic Invasive Species Act of 2005 strengthens federal authority and improves coordination between the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the fight against invasive species. These alien species compete with, and in some cases replace, native fish, mammals and plants, altering marine ecosystems and costing the U.S. economy billions of dollars annually.
Today's Congressional action follows the recent U.S. District Court decision ordering EPA to repeal its exemption of the discharge of ships ballast water from the permitting requirements of the Clean Water Act. "While ships' ballast water is the largest source of invasive species, it is by no means the only one. Escape from aquaculture operations or the release of unwanted pets are two other ways for non-native species to be introduced into the marine ecosystem," said Roger Rufe, retired U.S. Coast Guard vice admiral and president of The Ocean Conservancy. "The Court, and now our elected officials, recognize that we must provide a system for preventing, detecting, and reducing these harmful biological pollutants."
Both the federal U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the independent Pew Ocean Commission identified invasive species as a major threat to the health of U.S. oceans. The National Aquatic Invasive Species Act of 2005 compliments EPA's existing authority to regulate ballast water under the Clean Water Act and provides new authority for federal agencies to screen imports for invasive species, to detect and study emerging pathways for species, and enables federal and state governments to rapidly respond to outbreaks to prevent species' becoming established in ecosystems.
The current annual investment by federal agencies in preventing invasive species is less than one percent of what is being spent by states and cities to fight species that have become established.
"In reducing the threat from invasives, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," says Catherine Hazlewood, Program Manager for The Ocean Conservancy. "NAISA would provide a small investment of much-needed federal resources to help prevent invasives from spreading; without it, states and local economies could spend billions more trying to remove these species."
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.