It is well known that there are no marine invasive species on the Antarctic continent. However, at present, numerous intruders that travel embedded in the hulls of ships endanger the white continent.
Marine invasive species may endanger white continent
A study conducted by the Spanish National Research Council confirms this. Thanks to this study, they were able to identify several species. They could invade and endanger the Antarctic ecosystem.
These invaders are embedded in the hulls of large ships that ply the southern seas. Several species were identified, such as the Chilean and Mediterranean mussels. The process by which they attach themselves to ship hulls below the waterline is called biofouling.
There are other marine species such as the flattened crab which is endemic to Europe and executes the same process as the mussel. Also barnacles and some kinds of Asian algae have the same capacity. All of them form colonies that adhere to artificial surfaces, such as the hulls of ships. In this way they travel thousands of kilometers from their place of origin.
They created a map with a list of ships from all over the world that enter Antarctica
The University of Cambridge and the British Antharctic Survey conducted a new study. It emphasizes that the possibility of marine invasive species reaching Antarctica is very real and the risk is increasing.
The study was done following a detailed record of ships that entered Antarctic waters between 2014 and 2018. In this way, a map was created with the global network of maritime traffic. In it you can see the connections with those that ply the Antarctic seas and where they come from. Around the world, almost 1,600 ports were identified as having connections with Antarctica. All these ships are potential transports for carrying invasive species embedded in their hulls.
Three types of vessels access the frozen continent
The ones that carry the most danger are fishing vessels. These ships spend a long time working in Antarctic waters without moving from there. Research vessels are in second place, followed by large cruise ships dedicated to tourism. In other words, the danger of an invasive species reaching Antarctica can come from anywhere in the world.
According to a report by the International Maritime Organization, biofouling is a serious problem. Not only is it a serious danger to the world’s biodiversity, but it also causes significant costs for shipping companies.
Worldwide, more than $6 billion is spent on hull cleaning annually. In addition to excess fuel costs because ships carry more weight due to hull adhesions. In turn, this increased fuel consumption causes an additional 70 million tons of CO2 to be emitted into the atmosphere.
There are strict regulations that prevent bringing invasive species into Antarctica. Although controls are only carried out in some ports. It is hoped that over time, all ports in the world will adopt these measures. Antarctica requires it.