Invasive Species in Ballast Water Messing With World’s Oceans

Ships that carry ballast water — used to balance and stabilize the vessels — also carry thousands of aquatic species across the globe to foreign habitats, where they can have environmentally catastrophic effects. Recognizing this as one of the top four environmental problems facing the world’s oceans (along with pollution, overfishing, and habitat destruction), 100 countries are expected to sign a U.N. treaty this week calling for regulation of ballast-water use in vessels around the world. Ballast water “can transfer pathogens and other micro-organisms and invasive species that have the capacity to distort and destroy the delicate [ecosystem] balance,” said Efthimios Mitropoulos, secretary general of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). “Once introduced, they can be virtually impossible to eliminate and, in the meantime, may cause havoc.” The IMO estimates that more than 10 billion tons of ballast water are transported each year, a number that will only rise as trade increases.