GloBallast - Invasion of the Killer Species

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Outmuscled? Not yet

The golden mussel, a rapidly reproducing shellfish, was first spotted in the mid-1990's in Argentina. It came from Hong Kong and has since worked its way up the Amazon River. This has been detrimental to the ecosystem of the Amazon Basin as the invasive species out compete local ones for nutrients and space. The golden mussel has caused infrastructure to break down as it rapidly reproduces and clogs water pipes and turbines in hydroelectric plants, causing billions of dollars in damage a year. How did this happen?

For centuries, ships have carried so-called ‘ballast water' for balance and stability. Most vessels today carry ballast water that may be freshwater, brackish, or saltwater. When a ship is empty of cargo, it fills with ballast water to maintain its structural integrity. The problem, however, is that the ballast water is a hospitable environment for invasive species such as the golden mussel. When a ship loads its cargo, the ballast water carrying the invasive species is discharged, thus spreading the destructive species even further.

Ballast water has been recognized as one of the greatest threats to the world's oceans, and can cause extremely severe environmental, economic and public health problems. Invasive species rapidly reproduce in their new environment, thereby disrupting the ecological balance of the oceans. Furthermore, they can carry toxins or viruses that adversely affect indigenous flora and fauna and the people who consume them. They also clog waterways that are necessary for transportation. As ships travel the world, so do the invasive species they carry.

In response to the threats posed by invasive marine species such as the golden mussel in the Amazon River, the member countries of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) took action to address this problem by developing guidelines to minimize the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms through the adoption of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments in February 2004. The most significant requirement was exchanging ballast water at sea rather than at port

In response to the guideline and the pressing issues that especially developing countries face, the GEF/UNDP/IMO Global Ballast Water Management Programme (GloBallast) is assisting developing countries in reducing the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens in ships' ballast water by exchanging ballast water at sea rather than at port, implementing the IMO ballast water guidelines and preparing for the new IMO Ballast Water Convention. Developing countries and Small Island Developing States are said to be at particular risk, as globalization of the world economy continues and new ports and shipping routes are opened.

The GloBallast programme works in collaboration with the shipping industry to provide new ballast water management approaches such as improved filtration technologies to minimize the proliferation of invasive species. Shipping moves over 80 percent of the world's commodities and transfers approximately 3 to 5 billion tons of ballast water internationally each year, making the industry a necessary partner to any new management practice.

Context

Global Ballast Water Management Programme

Invasive aquatic species are one of the four greatest threats to the world's oceans, and can cause extremely severe environmental, economic and public health impacts

Focus Areas

Geographic Scope

Oceans

Stakeholders

The GEF/UNDP/IMO Global Ballast Water Management Programme (GloBallast) is assisting developing countries to; reduce the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens in ships' ballast water, implement the IMO ballast water Guidelines and prepare for the new IMO ballast water Convention


Contacts

Contents

Background and Significance

Background

The Challenge

Goal and Objectives

The Experience: Challenges and Solutions

WHAT

The International Response

WHO

WHERE

WHEN

HOW

Results and Impact

Lessons for Replication

Main Results

Outlook (Conclusions and Next Steps)

Testimonies and Stakeholder Perceptions

Timeframe & Status

References

See also

External Resources

Attachments

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