There has been a great deal of debate in recent years about the damage caused to various environments around the world by invasive aquatic species. And while there are several potential reasons for the movement of such species from one location to another, the biggest culprit has been the regular discharge of ballast water from commercial vessels.
The marine industry is by its very nature an international one, and as we as a society continue to rely on the large-scale movement of vessels all around the world there was a realisation that something had to be done. The ratification of the Ballast Water Management Convention, due to be introduced later this year, will go a long way towards minimising potential damage to the environment in the future.
Your ballast water tanks contain more than just water
If you think about it, the collection of a large amount of water from one part of the world and the subsequent discharge in a completely different region is bound to cause a certain amount of upheaval. Eco-systems all over the globe are fragile at the best of times, but when certain invasive species are introduced the resulting imbalance is likely to be disastrous.
There are a number of potential inhabitants of a ballast water tank, and each of them can cause problems. A typical tank may contain:
No wonder the authorities felt the need to introduce a practical, usable set of regulations in regard to the discharge of ballast water, and to underline the need for effective ballast water treatment processes.
The impact on the environment is only part of the story
As well as issues relating to the eco-system, it’s also worth noting the economic impact of ballast water exchanges. If the localised eco-system changes, for example, it may lead to estuaries being closed to shipping, fishing stocks becoming decimated and detrimental effects on the coastal infrastructure. And as invasive species start to compete with local species for food, we are left with costly attempts to rebalance the biodiversity.
In addition to ecological and economic factors, there is a health issue for localised human populations to think of. It’s been suggested that some cholera epidemics of the past may have been linked to ballast water exchanges, for example, and some instances of large-scale poisoning from shellfish consumption may be associated as well. All in all, we are at a stage where drastic action is needed.