Ballast water treatment systems, related technologies and best management practices are developed and used on ships – voluntarily and as required by law – to reduce the risk of transporting and releasing AIS.

  • Mandatory and voluntary polices are in place to reduce the risk that species are taken up and released via ship ballast water.
  • Ballast water discharge regulations that impact the Great Lakes Basin exist at international, national, regional, and state levels.
  • Consistent policies across state, provincial and federal agencies increase protection for the entire Great Lakes Basin and create a level playing field for industry.

One of the most significant pathways of introduction for non-native species to the Great Lakes has been ballast water discharged from vessels using the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. Ninety-seven non-native species have been introduced to the Great Lakes through the shipping pathway, including the zebra mussel, Eurasian ruffe, round goby and spiny waterflea.[1]

Agencies, vessel owners and operators, and industry associations are adopting mandatory and voluntary polices to reduce the risk that species are taken up and released via ballast water. Ballast water discharge regulations that impact the Great Lakes Basin exist at international, national, regional, and state levels. Many of the regulatory approaches center around numeric standards for the concentration of organisms in ballast water discharge and the installation of ballast water management or treatment systems by vessel owners to comply with the standards. The U.S. and Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway agencies, Transport Canada and the U.S. Coast Guard, are working together through the Ballast Water Working Group to coordinate regulatory, compliance and research efforts, including sampling and inspections, for vessels transiting the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway. Industry groups are also taking action to implement voluntary best practices for ballast water management and install treatment systems as they come to market.

[1] USGS. 2012. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL. https://nas.er.usgs.gov