Panaji, Feb 5 (UNI) Introduction of non-native aquatic species through ballast water of ships, poses a great threat to the world's coastal and marine environment, according to International Maritime Organisation (IMO) secretary general Efthimios E Mitropoulos.
Mr Mitropoulos was speaking at the inaugural session of the three-day international conference on ''Biofouling and Ballast Water Management'' at the National Institute of Oceanography today.
India, he said, has played a significant part in addressing the issue in the South Asia region. He pointed out that marine environment and maritime resources are vital to the global economy and for sustainable economic growth.
Mr Mitropoulos said ballast water has the potential to pose serious ecological, economical and health threats due to the harmful organisms and pathogens may transfer from one ecosystem to another.
Globally, it is estimated that about 10 billion tonnes of ballast water, containing over 7,000 species organisms, are transferred each year, he said.
As a result, there is growing concern worldwide over the hazard posed to human health by the transport of bacteria and other pathogens in ballast water. The introduction of marine species through ballast water can also have a significant impact on the seafood and fisheries industries, he pointed out.
The economic damages are running into billions of dollars, while the ecological and public health damage is incalculable, Mr Mitropoulos added.
The IMO, he said, has been engaged in finding a solution and has recently devised a new legally-binding international instruments to ''address, meet and respond to all the associated challenges''.
Biofouling, he said, is a risk posed by all vessel types -- small yachts, fishing vessels, large trading vessels engaged in international trade, barges and mobile drilling rigs.
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