Isle Royale fights invasive species by testing ballast water

A few days ago, Isle Royale National Park conducted emergency ballast water treatment tests on its Ranger III vessel as part of a study in prohibiting the transfer of invasive species to Isle Royale.

After an outbreak in 2007, park superintendent Phyllis Green formed a team of U.S. Geological Survey scientists to treat ballast water that may carry things like harmful bacteria that could be detrimental to the local ecosystem.

Although the treatment is temporary, Green says it’s a step in the right direction.

“The park has been very concerned about the transfer of aquatic nuisance species to the park, and permanent treatment is a long way off,” she said. “It’s probably ten years or more, so we wanted to see if we could find something for the interim that would reduce risk by killing a lot of organisms.”

She adds that many tests have been done around the world, including overseas in Germany, but the key is finding a treatment that works and can be done without having to separate the ballast from the vessel.

“What’s critical about getting these tests done is that they are going to provide the rate of kill of the aquatic invasives or organisms in the tank. And for regulators to want to work with industry to put this in place, they’re going to want to know that it works better than exchange because an exchange is just merely when they’re out in the open ocean, they flush their tanks and then they refill them and they’re hope they’re reducing the problem,” said Green.

Isle Royale National Park has already identified nearly 60 areas that harbor invasive species.