Thank you, sir.
As the chair mentioned, in addition to the 1909 treaty, the IJC has specific responsibilities under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. As I think you have probably heard from other witnesses, the agreement is being renewed in order to incorporate a more ecosystem approach to the way in which the water quality issues of the Great Lakes are addressed, again recalling that the main purpose of the agreement is to help both countries work toward the restoration and the maintenance of the biological, physical, and chemical integrity of the Great Lakes. Clearly, with respect to aquatic invasive species, one talks of the biological integrity of the lakes. That's how the IJC has become involved, has tracked and has been concerned with respect to aquatic invasive species.
The International Joint Commission has been extremely interested in the issue of invasive species for a long time. In 1988, both the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and the International Joint Commission studied the matter and alerted both governments that aquatic alien invasive species in ballast water posed a significant threat to the Great Lakes. That's when the two commissions urged the nations' coast guards to take immediate steps to end the ongoing introduction of exotic organisms via ballast water discharge, and to investigate other vectors of introduction.
The commission is pleased to note that now both Canada and the United States have adopted a ballast water treatment standard for the Great Lakes for “salties”, that is, those ships that enter the Great Lakes from the Atlantic Ocean, in other words, that use the St. Lawrence River as a gateway. The standard which the United States has just adopted, and which Canada committed to adopting as well, when it signed the International Maritime Organization agreement, is more or less the same.
The discharge of ballast water is believed to be the cause of the introduction of 80 non-native species or more into the basin since 1959. The good news is that no non-native species have been seen in the Great Lakes since 2006, and this success is attributed in great part to the measures which were implemented, certainly in Canada, in 2006. These measures require that vessels empty their ballast elsewhere, or take specific measures to prevent new species from being introduced.
However, the commission also remains concerned about other pathways for introduction, including the live food fish industry, the aquarium trade, recreational boating, recreational fisheries enhancement, the bait business, and horticultural practices. And of course, canals, which brings me to the issue of Asian carp.
Ten years ago the commission was one of the first to recognize and raise the threat of Asian carp with the governments. The commission has advanced the position that there should be an ecological separation between the Great Lakes basin and the Mississippi River system, which would help prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes and devastating the ecosystem. An ecological separation need not necessarily be a complete hydraulic separation, but it could be achieved through the use of other types of barriers.
I am sure you have been briefed on the alternates that are being studied for the Asian carp, and have also been made aware that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has foreshortened the delay by three years, I think. They were supposed to deliver options by 2015. Now they have been given the order to have their solutions or options ready by 2013, again targeting Asian carp control.
One of the fundamental roles of the IJC that we try to deliver with diligence is to advise governments on the challenges that need to be met, and we offer up some solutions.
As early as 2004, in one of our biennial reports, we recommended to the governments that they give us, the IJC, a reference to coordinate and harmonize binational efforts to counter the threats of aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes. In fact your committee endorsed that recommendation in 2005.
Now, although the governments chose not to give us such a reference, the commission has continued to do work in this area in order to continue to inform not only ourselves but also the governments through our biennial reports and through various assessment reports.
The commission undertook the development of the biennial aquatic invasive species rapid response policy framework—we haven't tried to put an acronym on that one, because it would sound horrible—which was a priority that we set in 2007-09.
We again, in 2011, in the 15th biennial report, reported to governments on the need for this rapid response approach. Since that report was tabled, the IJC has received more than $143,000 in U.S. Great Lakes restoration funds to develop a pilot binational AIS response plan for the boundary waters, specifically for the Detroit and St. Clair corridor. That plan is nearing completion.
As we're getting into more detail of what the nations are doing with respect to AIS, I think I'll turn the presentation over to Dr. William Taylor, who is, as the chair said, the Canadian co-chair of the science advisory board that provides scientific advice to the commission and therefore to government.