Baykeeper Update

Keeping Invasive Species Out of the Bay

New rules to keep invasive species out of San Francisco Bay are a big step forward, but should be even tighter, Baykeeper recently told regulators.

Baykeeper urged the adoption of the proposed rules, with further protections for the Bay and all California waters, during the State Lands Commission’s process for implementing the state Marine Invasive Species Act and Coastal Ecosytems Protections Act.

The State Lands Commission is prescribing procedures ships must use to minimize the release of invasive species in their ballast water. Ships fill their ballast tanks with water to maintain stability along coasts and on the open ocean. The tanks are often emptied while the ships are in port, releasing sea creatures, plants and microorganisms from far-off waters.

When non-native species become established, they can crowd out native species and seriously impact the local ecosystem, economy and public health. The San Francisco Bay-Delta is the most invaded aquatic ecosystem in North America and may be the most invaded estuary in the world.

The State Lands Commission has already set strict limits on invasive species in ballast water discharged into California waters. The proposed rules prescribe how ships will be required to meet those limits. For example, ships must install devices for taking samples of their ballast water and the commission will use specified protocols to test the samples for invasive species.

Baykeeper urged the commission to tighten the proposed rules by removing or revising a provision that “grandfathers” some ships, allowing them to meet looser standards for up to 10 years. We also recommended that reports of ballast water testing be posted online, so the public and citizens groups like Baykeeper can monitor the effectiveness of the new controls.

Ships are now required to obey both federal and state regulations designed to protect the Bay from invasive species. As these regulations are developed, Baykeeper takes every opportunity to advocate for stronger controls that will truly safeguard the Bay.

In February, we urged the State Lands Commission to strengthen state regulations on invasive species that hitchhike into the Bay on the underwater surfaces of large ships. In March, we told the EPA to set a national regulatory goal of no invasive species discharged in ballast water.

Baykeeper will continue to work to tighten regulations and enforcement to keep invasive species out of the Bay.