Researchers Set Course To Blockade Ballast Invaders

Science  11 May 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6082, pp. 664-665
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6082.664

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As cargo ships pump millions of liters of ballast in and out of their hulls, they also help spread sometimes microscopic stowaways, including invasive shellfish and algae that have damaged marine ecosystems and local economies worldwide. Blocking these invasions is the goal of a science barge called the Mobile Ballast Water Treatment Test Platform. Recently, researchers began using it to test ship-based technologies capable of removing most organisms from ballast water. The experiments are part of a larger international effort to prevent ship-borne invasions. It's not clear, however, which technologies will meet the new standards—or how researchers can validate the effectiveness of various devices. That's where the barge, and several other floating laboratories like it, come in: to provide unbiased, independent data to regulators and shipbuilders.

  • * Daniel Strain is a journalist in Washington, D.C.