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Detrimental species in ballast water

‘The introduction of non-indigenous species from far away environments with ballast water can severely alter the local environment, affecting human and environmental health as well as aquatic biodiversity’

Gulf News

Around 80 per cent of global trade is through shipping and an estimated of 3.7 billion tonnes of ballast water is transported around the globe by ships to balance their weight for adequate navigation, according to a UN report. As a consequence, ballast water transfers thousands of different organisms between geographically distant areas, bringing alien species into coastal waters around harbours. The introduction of non-indigenous species from far away environments with ballast water can severely alter the local environment, affecting human and environmental health as well as aquatic biodiversity.

According to Cornell University in the US, more than 50,000 non-indigenous species have invaded the US and the ecological damages and control costs total more than $137 billion per year. The most serious aquatic invading species, based on damages and control in terms of millions of dollars per year, are fish, then zebra and quagga mussels.

These environmental thieves take more of our economy and loss from us than humans through the loss of the fishery economy. The red tide slows tourism in coastal areas. Water security has always been an important need for the UAE, particularly due to its dependence on desalinated sea water for most of its water supplies. Invasive species introduced in ballast water can reduce the efficacy of desalination plants by clogging their intake and outflow pipes. Some species, like toxic algae blooms, can shut down a desalination plant for days.

The UAE authorities took control measures to stop ballast water discharge without treatment. The nation doesn’t have the problem in future with aquatic invasion. However, we don’t know about what happened in the past, what was introduced to our environment, their Nature of life and how this is going to affect us.

- The reader is a chemical engineer based in Dubai.

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