The San Francisco Chronicle’s Mark Martin, though one of the only local reporters to notice the story, wrote less than 300 words on the subject, and failed to scrutinize the legislation, which is vague on how targets will be achieved. A week later, the Business Times in Singapore addressed that question by running an interesting story about a local company’s development of an onboard ballast water treatment system. The United Nations’ International Maritime Organization, which is responsible for global standards, met in London last June to discuss such options, but there was little notice in the American media.
Perhaps the American Association of Port Authorities’ criticism that the government treats invasive species as a regional, rather than international, problem applies to the press as well. As always, there has been a healthy dose of recent reporting on invasive species. At the end of September, Newsday ran an article about the hunt for invasive sea squirts in Long Island Sound. This week, the Orange County Register in Southern California printed a story about the appearance of brown widows, a South American cousin of the local black widow. They are both examples of good environmental stories, and worth reading. But the Journal Sentinel, which just ran a long series on Asian carp in the Great Lakes (again by Dan Egan), was one of the few to widen the scope of its reporting.
Historically, the American press has been relentless about following the proliferation of invasive species and tracking their migrations from foreign lands. Reporters have also chronicled the intrusion of native U.S. creatures abroad. Those stories are fun, with built-in exotic appeal. Now, as popular calls to regulate ballast water are beginning to produce action, the press needs to be more critical of these less exciting, but ultimately more important, efforts to produce change.