The House of Representatives passed HR 3618 on 17 November 2009 that would require ships operating in U.S. waters that engage in international voyages to use an anti-fouling system on their hulls to control or prevent the attachment of unwanted organisms. The legislation, sponsored by Representative Oberstar (D-MN), would also ban the use of anti-fouling paints that are toxic to marine life. Although HR 3618 is largely aimed at reducing water pollution from chemicals leaching from anti-fouling paint on ships, the bill could help to prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species that attach to the hulls of ships.

Oberstar’s bill does not address the transmission of organisms through ballast water. Ballast water, which is carried to improve ship stability, is estimated to transport 3,000 to 10,000 different species, many of which are invasive. The House passed legislation (HR 2830) in 2008 that would have set a national standard of zero living organisms in ballast water discharged in U.S. waters. That measure, also sponsored by Rep. Oberstar, died in the Senate, where concerns over preemption of the right of states to control discharges into their ports and waterways outweighed concerns about aquatic invasive species. Neither chamber has yet acted on the issue this session of Congress.

To learn more about the policy debate over aquatic invasive species read “Turning the Tide on Invaders” in the November 20009 issue of BioScience. The article is currently available for free at


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