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Ballast water bringing invasive species to coasts
Apr 22, 2016

According to scientist ballast water carried by ships is providing a vehicle to bring in exotic species and further expansion of seaports and minor ports could pave the way for the arrival of invasive species in coastal areas.

Why in news:

  • A recent survey by the Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries, University of Kerala, had recorded the presence of as many as 10 invasive species in the biodiversity-rich intertidal habitats of the Kerala coast. They include one seaweed, one species of bryozoan, one species of mollusc and seven species of ascidian

  • The survey also recorded the presence of a sea slug called Winged Thecacera( ThecaceraPennigera ) in the southwest coast of India. Originally reported from the Atlantic coast of Europe, the presence of sea slug is currently reported from South Africa, West Africa, Pakistan, Japan, Brazil, eastern Australia and New Zealand.

  • The distribution of invasive species reported from the Kerala coast is likely to have been assisted by shipping

    Going with the tide

What is ballast water:

Ballast water is sea water carried by ships to maintain their balance when there is no cargo in them.

What’s harm of it:

The water stored at one port is discharged into another, before the cargo is loaded on the ship. In the process, a diverse mix of live organisms is transported and released from one marine environment to another, causing what is termed as marine "bio-invasion.''

  • Globally, over 12 billion tonnes of ballast water is moved annually and 3,000-4,000 species are carried around each day.

  • It may pose serious ecological, economic and health problems due to the multitude of marine species carried in ships’ ballast water. These include bacteria, microbes, small invertebrates, eggs, cysts and larvae of various species. The transferred species may survive to establish a reproductive population in the host environment, becoming invasive, out-competing native species and multiplying into pest proportions.

  • While release of many of these species into the new marine environment may not have any serious impact, there were cases of some of them causing disastrous economic and environmental consequences.

  • Ballast water is also considered a vehicle for toxic algae causing red tides and harmful algal blooms.

  • The spread of invasive species is now recognized as one of the greatest threats to the ecological and the economic well being of the planet. These species are causing enormous damage to biodiversity and the valuable natural riches of the earth upon which we depend. Direct and indirect health effects are becoming increasingly serious and the damage to the environment is often irreversible.

Efforts to contain harmful impact of Ballast water:

  • Countries such as the US, Australia and Canada had implemented string   ent regulations restricting the transfer of organisms in ballast water.

  • The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has also been working on regulations to overcome the problem.

  • the International Maritime Organisation and other agencies had jointly evolved a global ballast water management programme.

  • Ballast Water and Sediments (BWM Convention) was adopted by consensus at a Diplomatic Conference held at IMO Headquarters in London on 13 February 2004

■The Convention will require all ships to implement a ballast water management Plan.

■The Convention will require all ships to implement a Ballast Water and Sediments Management Plan. All ships will have to carry a Ballast Water Record Book and will be required to carry out ballast water management procedures to a given standard. Existing ships will be required to do the same, but after a phase-in period.

Efforts by India

  • In India, a `country focal point' (CFP), under the Director General of Shipping, has been set up to implement the IMO programme.

  • Prior to this programme, there was no system at the ports to monitor discharge of ballast water by ships. Most of the major ports in the country now, at least, ask ships to furnish details of ballast water.

Source: IMO, the hindu

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