Controlling the spread of non-native species

The global shipping industry is being made to take steps to restrict the dangers posed by transporting invasive non-native species around the world within ships ballast water

The global shipping industry is being made to take steps to restrict the dangers posed by transporting invasive non-native species around the world within ships ballast water

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This week, Isle of Man Friends of the Earth’s Cat Turner looks at measures being taken to deal with some unwelcome guests

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The Manx Wildlife Trust does a great job in, among other things, teaching people about invasive non-native species (INNS), especially those in our seas.

These are a worry for many reasons: upsetting the balance of delicate ecosystems; preying on our native species; and sometimes bringing disease with them.

They’re bad for biodiversity and the economy alike.

They include things like wireweed, which clogs the propellers of boats and competes with our local weeds, and soft shell clams.

You can find out more here: manxwt.org.uk/manx-wildlife/manx-marine/marine-invasive-non-native-species.

INNS can find their way into our waters in a number of ways – climate change is one, of course, with species following the changing temperature to new areas where they weren’t viable before. But sometimes they get transported here by other means. One, which the MWT mentions, is in the ballast-water that ships take on, and then release, as they travserse the globe.

But this last method may be going to come under control, thankfully.

On September 8, a new convention was triggered when Finland accedded to it: this means that a minimum requirement for 35 per cent of world merchant shipping became committed to it, and so it’ll come into force a year from that date – on September 8, 2017.

The convention is the ‘International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments’.

For short, it’s known as the BWM Convention, and it’s been drafted with the specific aim of stopping invasive aquatic species from spreading. It’ll do this by setting new ballast standards, and rules on its management.

The US and UK have yet to sign up to the BWM Convention.

Ships take on ballast water from wherever they’re sailing, so they’ll remain stable when they have unloaded their cargos.

But many don’t treat it to get rid of contaminants, so when they release it again a raft of microbes, animals and algae come with it.

And, of course, as international trade grows, so does the problem.

Under the BWM Convention, ships used in international trade will have to manage their ballast properly, including treating it using UV light, electrochlorination or filters. They’ll also have to keep records of what they’re doing.

It’s a step in the right direction. Doubtless shipping groups will claim that they’re suffering unreasonable additional costs – but if they don’t do this, the cost to the world’s ecosystems and economy could be vastly higher.

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