Journal article Open Access

The challenges and promises of genetic approaches for ballast water management

Rey, Anais; Basurko, OC; Rodriguez-Ezpeleta

Ballast water is a main vector of introduction of Harmful Aquatic Organisms and Pathogens, which includes Non-Indigenous Species. Numerous and diversified organisms are transferred daily from a donor to a recipient port. Developed to prevent these introduction events, the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments will enter into force in 2017. This international convention is asking for the monitoring of Harmful Aquatic Organisms and Pathogens. In this review, we highlight the urgent need to develop cost-effective methods to: (1) perform the biological analyses required by the convention; and (2) assess the effectiveness of two main ballast water management strategies, i.e. the ballast water exchange and the use of ballast water treatment systems. We have compiled the biological analyses required by the convention, and performed a comprehensive evaluation of the potential and challenges of the use of genetic tools in this context. Following an overview of the studies applying genetic tools to ballast water related research, we present metabarcoding as a relevant approach for early detection of Harmful Aquatic Organisms and Pathogens in general and for ballast water monitoring and port risk assessment in particular. Nonetheless, before implementation of genetic tools in the context of the Ballast Water Management Convention, benchmarked tests against traditional methods should be performed, and standard, reproducible and easy to apply protocols should be developed.
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