The Yahoo News , 29 August 2006

Seychelles targets ballast water in ecology drive

VICTORIA (Reuters) - Seychelles, battling the invasion of alien marine species, said on Tuesday it was setting up an area within its territorial waters where visiting ships will have to exchange their ballast water before docking.

The measure is designed to protect the archipelago, famous for its pristine beaches.

The problem of alien organisms is particularly acute in the Indian Ocean where 98 percent of corals have died because of rising sea temperatures that leave an ecological vacuum for invading species.

"We have earmarked an area 80 miles from Port Victoria where the ships should stop, discharge their ballast water and take on fresh supplies," said Captain Wilton Ernesta, head of the Seychelles Maritime Safety Administration (MSA).

He said the MSA will be able to check both manual and automatic recordings on incoming ships to verify whether the ballast water pumps on board have been used as required.

"The zone has been marked on hard and electronic copies of charts being given to ships," he said, adding that laws stipulating penalties for those who violate the requirement are only now being drafted.

Ships transfer approximately 3-5 billion tonnes of stabilising ballast water internationally each year -- one of the main causes of the global spread of marine species.

The U.N. International Maritime Organization (IMO) estimates at least 7,000 different species are being carried in ballast tanks around the world, including bacteria and other microbes.

Last week the MSA said studies had revealed the presence of three so-called bryozoan species in Seychelles that were "not historically known to have been found in this part of the world."

"Recently we heard of the zebra mussel, which has now colonised most parts of the U.S., costing more than $20 million a year in economic losses," Ernesta said.

Seychelles is conducting a study to investigate the presence of invasive species in its waters with the technical support of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) in a 179,000 euro ($229,400) project financed by oil conglomerate, TOTAL.