Ballast water management is needed in order to protect marine ecosystems and human interests that coexist within the existing ecosystems around the globe.
The Challenge: Ships are carrying ballast water to ensure stability, trim and structural integrity, and the ballast water often originates from environmental ecosystems with different organisms than the ecosystem in which the ballast water is discharged. This may cause problems. The water contains different kinds of organisms that can invade local maritime ecosystems and become invasive species. This can, at worst, change or destroy the marine ecosystem, and due to its nature these changes to the bio-diversity are irreversible.
Shipping moves over 80% of the world’s commodities and transfers approximately 3 to 5 billion tonnes of ballast water internationally each year. A similar volume may also be transferred domestically within countries and regions each year. The large amount of potential invasive species included in this ballast water is considered one of the greatest threats against local maritime ecosystems by the International Maritime Organization. It is normally an irreversible process when invasive species have changed the marine ecosystem, which is why ballast water management has high priority in the International Maritime Organization. There are many examples of the effect invasive species can have on local maritime ecosystems:
The Mnemiopsis Leidy, introduced to the Black and Azov Seas in the early 1980s, has wiped out the anchovy and sprat fisheries causing a loss in the region of US dollars 200 mill. annually. This invader has now established itself in the Caspian Sea and is causing concern even in the Baltic Region.
The Northern Pacific Starfish was introduced to Australia by ballast water from Japan in the early 1980s causing severe damage to aquaculture and fishing industries, proving impossible to eradicate. The invasion has had a major economic impact, leading to an annual loss of millions of US dollars.
Costs related to repair and control of damages caused by the Zebra Mussel (Dreissena Polymorpha) and Quagga Mussel in the US are in 2007 estimated at USD 1.06 billion annually.
Vibrio Cholerae, the species of comma-shaped, motile bacillus is the cause of cholera infectious disease. The Vibrio that produces the heat-tolerant exotoxin, which causes Cholera Epidemiology, is often transmitted through poorly treated water. This poses great threat to the tourism industry where beaches can be exposed to ballast water.
Asian Kelp - Undaria Pinnatifida - grows and spreads rapidly, both vegetatively and through dispersal of spores. Displaces native algae and marine life. Alters habitat, ecosystem and food web. May affect commercial shellfish stocks through space competition and alteration of habitat.
E. coli can cause diarrhea. The illness is usually self-limiting, with no evidence of long-lasting effects. However, one dangerous strain causes bloody diarrhea, kidney failure, and death in extreme cases. This poses great threat to the tourism industry where beaches can be exposed to ballast water.
Asian Carp have invaded the Mississippi and Illinois River, they threaten fishing industry in the Great Lakes. Due to their adaptability, the population rises quickly, pushing out the native fishes in the process. Some estimates show that 75 percent of the fish found in parts of the Illinois River are Asian Carp.
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