Ballast water treatment useful to reduce introduction of new exotic species

Published on
June 26, 2017

Ballast water treatment helps to prevent new introductions of non-native species, thus reducing the risk of ecological and economic damage. Research by Wageningen Marine Research in the ports of Groningen Seaports showed that 1 out of 7 species is non-native and does not originate in this area or in the Wadden Sea.

Risks of exotic species in ballast water

International shipping contributes to the spread of alien species. Among other things, via ballast water, they are moved between different regions. With increased shipping intensity, this phenomenon continues to increase too. There may also be harmful and pathogenic organisms among these species. In addition, the spread of these species can pose a risk to the local environment and economy if a species becomes permanent and invasive. A well-known example is the invasion of the Asian jellyfish in the Caspian Sea, which eats both the food of fish and their eggs, which caused the local fishing economy to collapse.

New system for ballast water treatment

In the Waddenfonds project "Demonstration of Ballast Water Treatment Barge", Damen Green Solutions has developed the Invasave, a ballast water treatment system on a mobile platform, a sustained protection of the ecosystem in the Wadden Sea against invasive alien species and pathogens.

Research by Wageningen Marine Research in this project showed that ballast water treatment has added value to reduce new introductions of non-native species, thus reducing the risk of ecological and economic damage.


Research into non-native species

Wageningen Marine Research has looked at species in the ports of Eemshaven and Delfzijl. The monitoring focused on non-native species and the risks of untreated ballast water. Presence of species and composition was analysed using taxonomic techniques and metabarcoding (DNA). There was also a risk assessment of untreated ballast water for the ports of Groningen Seapors and the nearby world heritage site, the Wadden Sea.

In the ports 332 species have been identified, of which 47 were alien, including certain types of crabs, sea pocks and algae. Some have been part of our nature for years, others may cause nuisance by, for example, fouling or algal blooms.

Result of the investigation

A total of 88 species were found in the ballast water of three sampled vessels, comprising 12 alien species. Of these, 6 were not found before and are new to the Wadden region and seaports of Groningen. Some of these species have the potential to settle in specific habitats, such as cooling water drainage pipes, and the environment around it. This can have consequences for maintenance, or the ecosystem nearby.