Marine Pest Species Costing Billions In Damage To Fisheries, Coastal Communities And Infrastructure Are Spreading

Marine pest species costing billions in damage to fisheries, coastal communities and infrastructure are spreading as the world’s shipping nations continue to largely neglect bringing into effect an international treaty setting out requirements for consistent handling and treatment of ships’ ballast water, according to new report.

Comb Jelly (Euplokamis dunlapae), Kvitsoy islands, Stavaner, Norway. Species of Jellies are just one of many species that typically get sucked into ballast water. (Credit: Copyright Erling Svensen / WWF-Canon)

Comb Jelly (Euplokamis dunlapae), Kvitsoy islands, Stavaner, Norway. Species of Jellies are just one of many species that typically get sucked into ballast water. (Credit: Copyright Erling Svensen / WWF-Canon)

Global warming presents an obscure increased threat of the introduction of nonindigenous aquatic nuisance species to ports around the world. Cargo ships congest anchorage zones in harbors as they wait for authorization to proceed to their destination. The rate that ships proceed through the port is constrained by vessel traffic volume and lunar tide. A ship may be given the go-ahead to proceed to port from an anchorage station with merely inches of clearance between the bottom of the hull and the river bed. It takes only minutes for this window of opportunity afforded by the tide to pass, so often times ships may be held-up until the tide rolls in again. As average global temperatures increase, and the waters expand and rise, ports around the world can expect greater volumes of vessel traffic at any given time as more are able to make way, courtesy of higher water levels and less hold-ups at anchorage stations.

While more vessel traffic will increase the risk of species introduction to ports around the world, the NY/NJ Harbor is likely to be relatively less adversely impacted from the increased shipping volume caused by global warming. This is because our port is primarily a consuming one as we import far more than we export–we are the main gateway for goods to enter the U.S. economy via the east coast (we do, however, export a good deal of grains and scrap metals, but this is small potatoes compared to the amount of goods that come in). Since most ships are taking on ballast water after they offload here and bringing it elsewhere to be discharged (when they load cargo again), other ports have to worry more about our aqueous species wreaking havoc in their neighborhoods. Ballast water is just one way that a ship can tranport and introduce invasive species around the world. We’ll leave that for another (even more dry) blog entry.

Read the full ScienceDaily report here

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