USGS - science for a changing world

Western Fisheries Research Center

Home About Us Field Stations Lead Scientists Research Projects Species Studied Publications Research Resources

Outreach Partners Tribal

Western Fisheries Science News

Debra Becker & Rachel Reagan, Editors

December 2017 | Issue 5.12

USGS Expertise and Science Leads to Ballast Water Management Solutions

When ships take on ballast water, the water carried in ships' ballast tanks to improve stability, plants and animals that live in the ocean are also picked up, providing a global transport mechanism for nonindigenous aquatic species. When the ships enter port, and the ballast water is released to accommodate the loading of cargo, nonindigenous species can be introduced into local waters.

Nonindigenous species are having a dramatic negative effect on marine, estuarine, and freshwater ecosystems in the United States and abroad. Negative effects include alteration of the structure and dynamics of the ecosystem, including the killing off of native species.

Methods for addressing ballast water have received considerable attention by regulators and treatment developers, but have had varying degrees of success. There is a pressing need for new technologies that are both cost-efficient and environmentally sound to treat the water in ship ballast tanks and reduce the spread of nonindigenous species.

In 2009, a collaborative effort between the USGS and the National Park Service was initiated to address the challenges of ballast water treatment in the Great Lakes. USGS entered into cooperative research and development agreements with multiple government and private sector entities to solve the problem of the unintended introduction of non-indigenous aquatic species. Barnaby Watten, Assistant Director for USGS Leetown Science Center has a strong background in hydraulic engineering and was familiar with the problem. Scott Smith of the Western Fisheries Research Center (WFRC) spent a significant portion of his career helping to mitigate and prevent the spread of invasive species. Smith brought Dr. Watten together with Noah Adams from the WFRC Columbia River Research Laboratory. Adams and his staff had extensive experience using various methods to direct large amounts of flow to aid in passing fish at hydroelectric dams.

Through this multi-disciplinary collaboration, the team developed a treatment system that both meets the unique operational demands of ships traveling across oceans, through coastal waterways and into ports and reduces the risk of introducing nonindigenous species. They came up with a relatively inexpensive and time effective method to treat ballast water without compromising the stability of the ship. The system uses one or more pumps to supply water and a biocide (to kill nonindigenous species) into the ballast tank through the nozzles. The nozzles are strategically located in the ballast tank to circulate the ballast water and mix the treated water so it can be safely discharged. This technology was patented in 2017 (US 9,688,551 B2) and tested for Coast Guard approval as an acceptable treatment method for cargo ships. Once final approval is received in 2018, the system will be commercialized via an established USGS CRADA (cooperative research and development agreement) partner.

This technology addresses a major problem that affects ecosystems around the world and highlights the innovative role that USGS provides to collaborative projects. In the U.S. alone it is estimated that more than 50 million metric tons of ballast water from foreign ports is transported annually. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that globally more than 10,000 marine species each day may be transported across the oceans in the ballast water of cargo ships. "I hope that this technology will help minimize the impact nonindigenous species have on our ecosystem" says Adams, "it was rewarding to be able to play a role in developing a relatively simple and inexpensive solution to a complex challenge."

To learn more, contact Noah Adams at 509-538-2964.

New Publications

New Publication on Fish Disease: USGS scientists at the WFRC with French fish virus researchers at the Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA) recently published a collaborative study involving infectious haematopoietic necrosis virus (IHNV) and spring viraemia of carp virus (SVCV), which are both rhabdoviruses of fish. Recombinant rhabdoviruses with heterologous gene substitutions have been engineered to study genetic determinants and assess the potential of these recombinant viruses for vaccine development. An article reporting on the virulence of a chimeric recombinant IHNV expressing the SVCV glycoprotein in salmonid and cyprinid fish was published in the Journal of Fish Diseases (2018; 41: 67-78. Laboratory exposures of the chimeric virus were deadly to rainbow trout, but not to cyprinid fish (common carp and koi). Further koi that survived the initial infection by the recombinant virus were protected against a lethal exposure to SVCV. For more information, contact Evi Emmenegger,, Seattle, WA or Gael Kurath,, Seattle, WA.

Emmenegger, E.J., S. Biacchesi, E. Mérour, J.A. Glenn, A.D. Palmer, M. Brémont, and G. Kurath. 2017. Virulence of a chimeric recombinant infectious haematopoietic necrosis virus expressing the spring viraemia of carp virus glycoprotein in salmonid and cyprinid fish. J. Fish Dis. 41(1): 67-78. DOI: 10.1111/jfd.12678.

New Publication Explores Green Sturgeon Behavior and Migration: The Columbia River and Coos Bay are economically important shipping channels that are inhabited by sub-adult and non-spawning adult green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris) during the summer and fall. The threatened Southern Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of green sturgeon and the Northern DPS that is not threatened, but is a species of special concern, are both known to use these estuaries. Regular maintenance of the shipping channels involve dredge operations that may have potential negative impacts on these fish owing to increased turbidity, destruction of critical habitat, reductions in prey resources, the release of harmful contaminants from dredged sediments, and entrainment by dredge equipment. However, there is little information concerning specific green sturgeon behavior near the shipping channels and other nearby habitats to help inform the managers and agencies charged with regulating these activities. In a new USGS Open-File Report, scientists from the WFRC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service examine acoustic-tag detections of green sturgeons from 2010 and 2011 to provide additional information on seasonal arrival and departure times, variability of individual residence times, extent of upstream migration, use of areas in and adjacent to the navigation channel and non-navigation channel areas, and variability in fish depths and water temperatures at the locations where fish were detected in the lower Columbia River Estuary. For more information, contact Hal Hansel,, Cook, WA.

Hansel, H.C., J.G. Romine, and R.W. Perry. 2017. Acoustic tag detections of green sturgeon in the Columbia River and Coos Bay estuaries, Washington and Oregon, 2010-2011: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2017-1144, 30 p., DOI: 10.3133/ofr20171144.

New Publication Looks at how Increased Sediment Load During Dam Removal Changes Nearshore Subtidal Communities: The coastal marine ecosystem near the Elwha River was altered by a massive sediment influx—over 10 million tonnes—during the staged three-year removal of two hydropower dams. In a study, published in PLoS ONE, scientists from USGS (WFRC and Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center), Washington Sea Grant, Washington Department of Natural Resources, University of Washington, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, and Environmental Protection Agency examine how the increased sediment load changed nearshore subtidal communities. Scientists used bathymetry, substrate grain size, remotely sensed turbidity, scuba dive surveys, and towed video observations collected before and during dam removal to assess responses of the nearshore subtidal community. Biological changes were primarily driven by sediment deposition and elevated suspended sediment concentrations. Changes were observed in sediment deposits, algae abundance, and invertebrate and fish abundance. Results from this study are relevant to future dam removal projects in coastal areas and more generally to understanding effects of increased sedimentation on nearshore subtidal benthic communities. For more information, contact Steve Rubin,, Seattle, WA.

Rubin, S.P., I.M. Miller, M.M. Foley, H.D. Berry, J.J. Duda, B. Hudson, N.E. Elder, M.M. Beirne, J.A. Warrick, M.L. McHenry, A.W. Stevens, E.F. Eidam, A.S. Ogston, G. Gelfenbaum, and R. Pedersen. 2017. Increased sediment load during a large-scale dam removal changes nearshore subtidal communities. PloS ONE 12(12): e0187742. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0187742

New Publication Documents Cases of Disease in Whitefish in the North Slope, Alaska: Fish are an important nutritional and cultural resource for the North Slope Inupiat and are a significant contribution to their annual nutritional needs. In particular, for the village of Nuiqsut, Alaska, nearly one-third of the subsistence diet of residents on average comes from fish. In 2013, concerns were raised by fishermen over observed fish with unusual white growths, leading to an investigation into fish health. In a new publication of Polar Science, scientists from state, federal, and private entities report the first confirmed cases of saprolegniosis caused by water mold from the genus Saprolegnia in Aanaakłiq, broad whitefish from the Colville River near Nuiqsut, Alaska. While this mold is known to be worldwide, these instances represent the first cases in Nuiqsut and only the second instance on a single fish on the North Slope, occurring in 1980. The paper describes the collaborative work on monitoring this emerging disease. For more information, contact Maureen Purcell,, Seattle, WA.

Sformo, T.L., B. Adams, J.C. Seigle, J.A. Ferguson, M.K. Purcell, R. Stimmelmayr, J.H. Welch, L.M. Ellis, J.C. Leppi, and J.C. George. 2017. Observations and first reports of saprolegniosis in Aanaakłiq, broad whitefish (Coregonus nasus), from the Colville River near Nuiqsut, Alaska. Polar Sci. 14: 78-82. DOI: 10.1016/j.polar.2017.07.002.

New Publication Explores the Ecology of the Sand Roller in the Lower Snake River, Washington: The sand roller is one of two species in the trout perch family and is endemic to the Columbia River basin. Although a few were collected in the Clearwater River in the late 1950s, none were ever collected downstream in lower Snake River reservoirs despite extensive sampling. However, in 2003 sand rollers were observed passing Lower Granite Dam and are now very abundant in Lower Granite Reservoir. In a study, published in Northwestern Naturalist, scientists collected basic information on sand roller ecology such as abundance, reproduction, diet, and habitat use. Although scientists did not identify an obvious cause for the increase in sand rollers in Lower Granite Reservoir, their increase did follow the establishment of the opossum shrimp Neomysis mercedis in the reservoir which compose a significant portion sand roller diets. The increase of sand rollers in Lower Granite Reservoir is significant because they may be providing a predation buffer for juvenile fall Chinook salmon but may also be a competitor with salmon. For more information, contact Ken Tiffan,, Cook, WA.

Tiffan, K.F., J.M. Erhardt, T.N. Rhodes, and R.J. Hemingway. 2017. Ecology of the Sand Roller (Percopsis transmontana) in a lower Snake River reservoir, Washington. Northwest. Nat. 98(3): 203-214. DOI: 10.1898/NWN16-25.1.


USGS Scientist to Present Webinar on Downstream Fish Passage: On December 14, 2017, WFRC scientist Toby Kock gave a presentation as part of the Joint Committee on Fisheries Engineering and Science webinar series. The presentation titled "Downstream Fish Passage: Improving the Design and Operation of Dam-Based Forebay Collection Systems" provided a review of the environmental, physical, and operating features at forebay collectors with summaries of project-specific performance and factors found to be statistically important predictors of collection success. The Committee hosting the seminar consisted of members of the American Fisheries Society Bioengineering Section and the American Society of Civil Engineers Environmental and Water Resources Institute and was established to foster communication between the two groups, share knowledge, and collaborate on projects related to fish passage. For more information, contact Toby Kock,, Cook, WA.

USGS Meets with Congressional Staff on Issues in the Upper Klamath Basin: On December 13, 2017, USGS Klamath Falls Field Station and Oregon Water Science Center science staff met with Senior Adviser to the Secretary, Alan Mikkeleson and his staff as well as Senior Policy Advisory to Greg Walden, Nick Strader. Staff scientists gave a briefing and held a discussion on fisheries and water management issues in the Upper Klamath Basin. For more information, contact Eric Janney,, Klamath Falls, OR.

In The News

On December 8, 2017, USGS scientist Craig Haskell was quoted in The Columbia Basin Bulletin about a recent article in the journal PLoS ONE describing the shift in food sources for migrating juvenile fall Chinook salmon in the Columbia River. For more information, contact Craig Haskell,, Cook, WA.

USGS, Western Fisheries Research Center
6505 NE 65th St.
Seattle, WA 98115

Download a copy of this months newsletter here.

Current issue
Previous issue

Download current issue
Download the current issue of the USGS Western Fisheries Research Center newsletter here.

E-Mail list
The USGS Western Fisheries Research Center newsletter has an online mailing list. If you would like to recieve the newsletter, then you should sign up!

Some of the links provided on this page may be presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Debra Becker
Page Last Modified: Thursday, 01-Feb-2018 17:45:52 EST