Search Penny Hill Press

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ballast Water Management to Combat Invasive Species

Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

The 112th Congress may consider legislation to amend and reauthorize the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990 to further study vessel ballast water management standards and modify how ballast water is handled.

In recent years, people have become increasingly aware that the globalization of trade, the increased speed of travel, the massive volume of cargo shipments, and rising tourism have combined to increase the chance of accidental introductions of foreign species into the United States. Aquatic species arrive through a variety of mechanisms—unintentionally when attached to vessel hulls or carried in vessel ballast water and intentionally when imported for aquaria display, as live seafood for human consumption, or as a transplant to increase sport fishing opportunities.

The arrival of zebra mussels in the Great Lakes and their subsequent damage to city water supplies and electric utilities focused significant attention on ballast water discharge by cargo ships as a high-risk mechanism for species invasion. New management efforts attempt to address this concern.

In late August 2009, the U.S. Coast Guard published proposed regulations to establish quantitative standards for ballast water treatment. The proposed standards would initially follow standards developed by the International Maritime Organization. In a subsequent phase, the quantitative standards would become much more stringent, given sufficient technological development to support achievement of the higher standards. The proposed Coast Guard standards would not preempt existing state ballast water management standards.

In response to litigation, the Environmental Protection Agency published regulations on December 28, 2008, to regulate ballast water discharge under the Clean Water Act through Vessel General Permits. Subsequently, P.L. 110-299 provided a two-year moratorium for commercial fishing vessels and non-recreational vessels less than 79 feet in length from the ballast water discharge provisions, and the 111
th Congress enacted legislation (P.L. 111-215) to further extend this moratorium through December 18, 2013.

This report provides background on various approaches to ballast water management and reviews current ballast water management laws and programs. This report will be updated as this issue evolves.

Date of Report: January 20, 2011
Number of Pages: 14
Order Number: RL32344
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail
Penny Hill Press  or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.