Keeping alien fish out of Indonesia 

As the saying goes “When you touch the water of the ocean, you are touching the whole world”.  The ocean, a super highway linking all parts of the world together, is a boon to global trade, with 80 percent using maritime routes.  However, given this interconnectedness, marine invasive species are also able to travel all over the world, damaging local marine ecosystems, including killing off native species.

An invasive fish species.

In an interview with Maritime Fairtrade, Dr. Beginer Subhan, researcher, IPB University, said the invasive species are usually transported via the ship’s ballast water or biofouling on the hull.

Dr. Subhan has been working a long time to find a solution to this problem and thinking out of the box and not to be constrained by conventional wisdom, he is now using a method of biodiversity assessment called meta barcode method, the eDNA metabarcoding identification, to detect invasive species.

eDNA metabarcoding is a novel method of assessing biodiversity where samples are taken from the environment via water, sediment or air from which DNA is extracted, and then amplified using general or universal primers in polymerase chain reaction and sequenced using next-generation sequencing to generate thousands to millions of reads. From this data, species presence can be determined, and overall biodiversity assessed.

Dr. Subhan said this method is especially useful in Indonesia, an archipelagic country with a large spatial scale of mega-biodiversity.  With this method, Indonesia can contribute good quality data on aquatic biota into international databases.  

Biofouling on a propeller.

Jazzy Isya Perdana, business development director, PT. Samudera Indonesia Tangguh, said the alien invasive species pose serious ecological and economic problems, due to the multitude of marine species carried in ships’ ballast water. He said a Ballast Water Treatment System (BWTS) is installed on every one of his ships to eliminate bacteria, microbes, small invertebrates, eggs, cysts and larvae.  

Dr. Subhan advised ships returning from overseas voyages and before entering Indonesian waters to first discharge existing ballast water and replace it with fresh seawater or treat the existing ballast water with chemicals and pesticides. 

Top photo credit: iStock/ pcruciatti. Stock photo of fisherman showing tuna at fish market, Ende, Flores island, Indonesia.

All other photos credit: Dr. Beginer Subhan

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