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Legal Framework
Nongovernmental Organizations



Exotic species are animals and plants found beyond their natural ranges and now adapted to the local environment. Many are highly beneficial. Many United States crops and domesticated animals, sport fish and aquaculture species, horticultural plants, and biological control organisms were introduced into Indiana from an outside location. On the other hand, a large number of exotic species cause significant environmental, socio-economic, and public health damage. The severity of these impacts are not generally understood, impeding the commitment required to prevent future introductions. Also, a crisis mentality occasionally limits the vision and opportunity to prevent future introductions. Although at least 139 exotic aquatic species have become established in the Great Lakes watershed, future introductions are highly probable.

Because the Great Lakes are open to the Saint Lawrence Seaway for shipping, they have been the recipient of many foreign aquatic nuisance species. More than 40 of these organisms have been introduced in the last 30 years, a surge coinciding with the opening of the Seaway. With the increased spread of ocean transport and improved water quality in some European countries, zebra mussels, ruffe, gobies, and other pests are now better able to survive the journey in ballast water.

The focus here is upon what have been viewed as harmful exotic species, and particularly upon aquatic nuisance species of concern to the Lake Michigan watershed in Northwest Indiana.

Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention Control Act of 1990

The Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990
76 is federal legislation which provides a platform for addressing problems associated with aquatic nuisance species. The Act was established for the prevention and control of the unintentional introduction of aquatic nuisance species and is based on five objectives:

  • Prevent further unintentional introductions of nonindigenous aquatic species

  • Coordinate federally funded research, control efforts, and information dissemination

  • Develop and carry out environmentally sound control methods to prevent, monitor, and control unintentional introductions

  • Understand and minimize economic and ecological damage

  • Establish a program of research and technology development to assist state governments

One notable outgrowth of the Act is the adoption by the U.S. Coast Guard of regulations to control the release of ballast water from vessels entering the Great Lakes. The "most practical method of helping to protect the Great Lakes from foreign organisms that may exist in discharged ballast water is the exchange of ballast water in the open ocean, beyond the continental shelf. Water in the open ocean contains organisms that are adapted to the physical, chemical, and biological conditions (such as high salinity) of the ocean. These organisms will not, or are unlikely to, survive if introduced into a freshwater system."77 The master of a vessel governed by these regulations is required either (1) to carry out an exchange of waters beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone78 in a depth exceeding 2,000 meters, before entering Snell Lock in New York, so that "any tank from which ballast water will be discharged, contains water with a minimum salinity level of 30 parts per thousand;" or, (2) retain and seal the vessel's ballast water onboard the vessel.79 The regulations do not, however, apply to vessels operating exclusively within the Exclusive Economic Zone, such as those moving from Lake Michigan to another port in the Great Lakes, so no safeguard is provided against the dispersion of aquatic nuisance species already in the Great Lakes.

Overview of Indiana Laws

A person may not lawfully bring into Indiana for release, or sale for release, "live fish, the fry of live fish, or any other living wild animal without a permit issued" by the Department of Natural Resources. A wild animal importation permit can be granted by the agency "only upon satisfactory proof that the specific animals intended to be imported" are free of communicable disease." This statutory requirement does not apply to animals to be used in zoos.80 A rule assists in the administration of the requirement relative to fish importation.81 Additional requirements apply to grass carp, limiting their stocking to infertile triploid grass carp.82 A person who wishes to possess a bear, wild cat, or wolf must also obtain a permit.83 These provisions are administered by the Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Additionally, there are provisions pertaining to the importation of plants, insects, and other organisms. These are administered by the Division of Entomology and Plant Pathology, Department of Natural Resources. The authority is founded upon the control of "pests or pathogens" and includes arthropods, nematodes, microorganisms, fungi, parasitic plants, mollusks, plant diseases, and exotic weeds "that may be injurious to nursery stock, agricultural crops, other vegetation, or bees."84 Probably the best known of these are designed to control "africanized bees" and are set forth by rule.85

Local Government

Township trustees are authorized by statute to manage the control and eradication of several types of "detrimental plant." Included within the definition are Canada thistle, Johnson grass, sorghum alumun, bur cucumber, shattercane "and, in residential areas only, noxious weeds and rank vegetation."
86 The regulatory structure provides that a township trustee "who has reason to believe that detrimental plants may be on real estate" is to give a landowner 48-hours notice to destroy the detrimental plants. The township trustee may enter upon the land to determine whether the plants have been destroyed, and if not, following additional notice, "may hire a person to destroy the plants."87 The Purdue University Cooperative Extensive Service provides technical assistance to township trustees for the control of detrimental plants.88

A weed control board may be established by ordinance at the county level. Membership includes a township trustee, a soil and water conservation district supervisor, a representative from the agricultural community, a representative from the county highway department, and a cooperative extension service agent who serves in a non-voting advisory capacity. Plants within the jurisdiction of the board are Canada thistle, Johnson grass, and marijuana.89 Similarly, a municipality or county may adopt an ordinance to control "weeds and other rank vegetation."90


Lake Carriers' Association: Voluntary Ballast Water Management Program

The Lake Carriers' Association is the trade association representing U.S.-Flag vessel operators on the Great Lakes. The Association is made up of eleven American companies that operate 58 self-propelled vessels ("laker") and integrated tug and barge units ranging in length from 383 to 1,013.5 feet. Iron ore, coal and limestone are the primary commodities carried by LCA members. Other cargos include cement, salt, sand, grain and liquid-bulk products. The vast majority of cargos carried by these "lakers" move between U.S. ports, what is commonly referred to as the "Jones Act trades."

In 1993, the Lake Carriers' Association led an effort, joined by the Canadian Shipowners Association, to help control aquatic nuisance species unintentionally transported through the transfer of ballast water. Directed primarily to slowing the ruffe, which in the 1980s was introduced into Duluth Harbor on Lake Superior, the Voluntary Ballast Water Management Program now also controls activities in Alpena Harbor on Lake Huron, where a second fledgling population of ruffe has been found.92

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