Baykeeper Update

Protecting the Bay from Invasive Species

Large ships should be required to clean hitchhiking invasive species off their underwater surfaces before arriving in San Francisco Bay, and not while sitting in California waters, Baykeeper recently told regulators.

Baykeeper urged stronger protections for the Bay and all California waters during the State Lands Commission’s process of developing regulations to implement the state Marine Invasive Species Act.

Marine plants, animals and microorganisms from foreign ecosystems attach themselves to underwater surfaces on ships in a process known as “biofouling.” Once the ships reach their destinations, the creatures are released into local ports. When non-native species become established, they can crowd out native species and seriously impact the local ecosystem, economy and public health.

Baykeeper commended the regulators for setting long-overdue requirements for large ships (over 300 tons) to inspect and clean off invasive species. The proposed regulations also require the ships to have biofouling management plans and keep detailed records of all in-water inspections, ship cleanings, antifouling systems and ship operations.

However, the proposed regulations also have serious flaws that need to be fixed, including encouraging ships to clean off invasive species while sitting in California waters, which will release accumulated invasive species directly into the Bay. Baykeeper urged regulators to require the ships to be cleaned out of water whenever possible.

We also advocated for making ships use only nontoxic methods to manage and remove invasive species. In addition, we urged regulators to require ships to file their plans and records electronically to ensure public access to the information, and for the regulations to be enforced quickly.

The San Francisco Bay-Delta is the most invaded aquatic ecosystem in North America and may be the most invaded estuary in the world. One estimate says that a new non-native species is established in San Francisco Bay every 14 weeks. Invasive species are the major contributor to the decline of nearly half of the endangered species in the U.S.

Baykeeper’s advocacy to strengthen regulations around invasive species is part of our ongoing work to strengthen regulations and laws that protect the Bay. Regulations protecting the Bay are made and enforced by many different state and federal government agencies. The State Lands Commission has jurisdiction over invasive species as part of its mandate to provide stewardship of California’s public lands, waterways and resources.