For centuries, species have been transported across the seven seas on ships. They used to attach themselves to the ship’s hull, but nowadays they hitch a ride in the ballast water that ships use for stability. When this ballast water is discharged at the port of destination, exotic plants and animals enter the new location and can cause severe ecological and economic damage.
For instance, South America has been struggling with the invasive Asian golden mussel, which has affected biodiversity in certain areas of the continent and poses a significant problem for the fishing industry. Fishermen along the Caspian Sea face similar issues due to the invasive Asian jellyfish. This jellyfish has already been spotted in Dutch waters.
By 2024, all ships must be equipped with a ballast water management system in order to prevent invasive species from being transported. Wageningen Marine Research has a land-based test facility in Den Helder for testing the effectiveness of ballast water management systems. At this test facility, environmental and (eco) toxological knowledge is used to test these systems for fresh, brackish, and salt water to determine if the system meets all the necessary requirements.
By doing this, Wageningen University & Research is contributing to the prevention of ecological and economical damage caused by invasive species.