Biological Stowaways: Deadly Ballast Water

Apr 15, 2013

A comb jellyfish from the National Zoo in Washington D.C.
A comb jellyfish from the National Zoo in Washington D.C.
Credit greyloch via flickr Creative Commons

Thirty years ago, a North American ship dumped ballast water containing comb jellyfish into the black sea and triggered a catastrophic decline in marine life. A decade later, discharged ballast containing a strain of cholera contaminated shellfish of the coast of Peru, killing more than 12,000 Latin Americans. These cases of biological stowaways are being targeted by the United Nations for regulation – but the treaty that would prevent future catastrophes has yet to be ratified. Fred Pearce is the environment consultant for New Scientist discusses the stowaway problem and potential solutions with us.