Concern for the Great Lakes crosses international boundaries

Written by Lorne Thomas

Ray Johnston, president of the Chamber of Marine Commerce; Marc Garneau, former astronaut; Rear Adm. Mike Parks, Commander, Coast Guard Great Lakes; Monte Solberg, Former Canadian Minister; Stephen Brook, vice president of the CMC

The Great Lakes are a bi-national treasure that we at the Ninth Coast Guard District are particularly well suited to serve and safeguard, but we can’t do it alone. We share the lakes with Canada – 1,500 miles of international border – and that makes them one of the most unique waterway systems in the world. Billions of dollars of trade are carried across their surface, nearly 30 million people depend on them for drinking water, and anglers and eco-tourists from around both countries come to the lakes for fishing, boating, and swimming. We work with hundreds of organizations, government agencies, local groups, and individual citizens who share our interest in keeping the lakes functional, healthy and safe.

An overhead view of the Marine Club’s annual meeting from 2009

The Marine Club

The Marine Club is a large fraternity of individuals dedicated to the promotion of marine transportation throughout Canada, St. Lawrence Seaway, the Great Lakes Region and the coastal waters of North America. Their annual dinner in Toronto provides a well-established forum for discussing how the Great Lakes shipping industry can thrive, maintain the vital waterways around the lakes, and protect the lakes themselves. Rear Adm. Mike Parks, Ninth District commander, attended this year to meet with individuals and groups who shared our passion.

Protecting the Environment

Parks also met with the American Great Lakes Ports Association, who held their annual meeting the week of the dinner, to provide an update on U.S. Coast Guard approval of ballast water management systems and the forthcoming Vessel General Permit from the U.S. EPA, which regulates frequency and amount of acceptable vessel discharges into the waterways. Invasive species don’t respect international borders, so combating them is not only the responsibility of the U.S. and Canada, but also of all countries whose ships enter the Great Lakes.

Prestigious Speakers

Rear Admiral Mike Parks speaks to the Chamber of Marine Commerce at their annual luncheon in Toronto, Jan. 22, 2013.

Parks spoke in front of the Chamber of Marine Commerce (CMC) at their annual luncheon. The CMC represents over 170 U.S. and Canadian companies that rely on marine transportation to deliver products and materiel that serve people all over the world.

This year, the President of the CMC asked Parks to speak at the luncheon. He was asked to share the podium with some august company; a former member of the Canadian parliament and a former Canadian astronaut who is running for the office of Prime Minister. Parks spoke on ballast water regulation, the recently signed Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and our bi-national port state control program.

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