|GENEVA - The shipping industry should do more to kill stowaway alien species, from jellyfish to algae, that can wreck ecosystems when flushed from ships\' ballast tanks, the environmental group WWF said yesterday.|
\"Ballast water, carried by ships to provide balance and stability, is loaded with thousands of marine species that can invade new environments when released in ports,\" WWF said, warning that alien species could be as damaging as oil spills.
\"A convention is urgently needed to prevent a marine alien species disaster,\" the group said in a statement ahead of a U.N. International Maritime Organization (IMO) conference on ballast water in London from February 9-13.
WWF said the IMO conference should agree on mandatory treatment of the estimated 10 billion tonnes of ballast water carried round the world every year to kill off hitch-hiking marine life.
It said current guidelines for sucking up water from ports and dumping it at destinations, sometimes on the other side of the globe, afforded little protection to the environment.
Survivors of voyages can thrive in new habitats, freed from predators and parasites.
WWF said it cost $750 million to control the zebra mussels, brought inadvertently from Europe, that have infested 40 percent of the internal waterways of North America\'s Great Lakes area.
North American jellyfish in the Black Sea and Asian kelp in Australia have been disastrous for fisheries in their new homes.
\"Invasive species are perhaps the major environmental challenge facing the shipping industry,\" said Simon Cripps, director of WWF\'s Endangered Seas Program.
WWF said the IMO should set the strictest standards at the talks. The draft text of the convention, for instance, has alternatives for limiting the number of viable organisms in ballast water that range from one to 35 cubic ft.
\"Good economic solutions for treating ballast water don\'t yet exist,\" said Andreas Tveteraas, the WWF\'s delegate to the talks.
\"Promising technologies involve combinations of filtration, ultra-violet radiation and heating... You could also add nutrients to ballast water to deoxygenate it,\" he said. Other methods include electrocution or dumping water on land.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE