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A Review and Evaluation of Ballast Water Sampling Protocols

Sutton, C.A., Murphy, K.R., Martin, R.B. and Hewitt, C.L. (1998) A Review and Evaluation of Ballast Water Sampling Protocols. CRIMP/CSIRO Marine Research

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This study was initiated to review and evaluate ballast water sampling techniques with a view to providing a basis for the development of a robust and effective sampling program. The proposed sampling program will support the risk assessment-based decision support system (DSS) currently under development for the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) and provide verification of management activities. This study involved (i) a review of sampling protocols currently in use by national and international ballast water research and management groups and (ii) field trials and evaluations of a range of sampling methods.

Contact was made with 32 researchers who are or have recently participated in ballast water research. Information on sampling protocols was obtained from 14 research groups. The review indicated that the majority of programs were established to survey and document the range of organisms found in ballast tanks of incoming vessels to provide some measure of risk associated with ballast water discharge. Most were designed as monitoring programs and were carried out on an opportunistic basis. As a consequence, the sampling methods used were largely determined by available access to ballast tanks.

A total of nine ballast water sampling methods were identified from the review and seven were evaluated within this project. This involved opportunistic testing of different combinations of methods on a total of 9 vessels in the ports of Hobart, Devonport and Newcastle and a more detailed and controlled study on the MV Iron Whyalla during ballast water heat treatment trials between Pt Kembla and Pt Hedland. Sampling methods were evaluated for their practical (operational) application and their effectiveness in sampling the both the total zooplankton assemblage and a suite of target (or surrogate) taxa.

Access to ballast tanks and the stage of the ballasting cycle at which sampling occurs impose major restraints on the types of methods that can be employed. Operationally, net sampling through manholes was preferred for ease and speed of sampling but this method is only appropriate for cargo holds and wing tanks (when full). Sampling with pumps via sounding pipes or air vents provides access to a greater range of tanks but requires more cumbersome equipment and longer sampling times. In-line (ballast pump) sampling techniques also require relatively long sampling times and can only be used when ballast pumps are in operation, either during ballasting or deballasting.

The methods tested differed in the effectiveness with which they sampled the zooplankton community in ballast tanks and no single method effectively sampled all taxa. Overall, nets were more effective at sampling the total zooplankton assemblage and the suite of surrogate target taxa but some level of sampling bias was associated with all methods. Mobile zooplankters (such as crab zoea) were under-sampled by methods that relied on low flow rate pumps, while polychaete trochophores were adequately sampled by a range of methods.

These operational and biological uncertainties, make it inadvisable for sampling programs to rely on a single sampling method. The final selection of methods to be used in any instance will be influenced by the aims of the particular sampling program. For targeted sampling programs, the use of molecular techniques and a reduced reliance on traditional identification methods is likely to lead to the development of more efficient ballast sampling methods.

Item Type: Report
Series Name: Centre for Research on Introduced Marine Pests. Technical Report No. 18
Publisher: CRIMP/CSIRO Marine Research
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