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Shipping industry agrees to help in battle against invasive species

The Great Lakes shipping industry is stepping forward to find a way to kill invasive species hitchhiking from foreign ports in the ballast water of ocean ships.

Ports from all Great Lakes states and provinces have signed on.

The goal is to find a way to stop things like zebra mussels or round gobeys or other exotic fish and plants from clogging up Great Lakes waterways.

The shipping industry and port cities, relying on multi-million dollar trade from overseas have been stung by proposals from states to ban foreign ships that don't have zero discharge from their ballast water. Wisconsin and Michigan are considering such legislation.

Adolph Ojard, Duluth Seaway port director says a ban is not a solution. He says he would hope that states look at this program as an opportunity to invest in a solution rather than a 'just say no.' He says the ships are very important to the regional economy and is the region's global connection. He says the region has to access these international markets.

Also, Ojard says technology probably won't come up with a magic bullet to kill all shipboard organisms.

He says zero really is not a number and notes that even in a laboratory it's not possible to sterilize to the zero level.

However, Ojard says what can be done is to effectively remove a high percentage of any species that may exist in ballast water.

Steve Fisher, the director of the American Great Lakes Ports Association hopes this concerted effort will bring results.

Fisher says they're hopeful that the solution is not too far around the corner and that the Great Ships Initiative will accelerate the day when that solution is ready for installation on ships.

The $3.5 million dollar project will build and staff a new research center on Superior's waterfront. The University of Wisconsin-Superior will staff the research team with scientists.