Skip to content

August 31, 2006

For More Information, Contact:
Paige Schoknecht at (916) 651-4011


SACRAMENTO – State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) announced today that his SB 497, the Coastal Ecosystems Protection Act, has been sent to the Governor for signature.  SB 497 creates standards for the discharge of ballast water, which is used by cargo vessels to maintain balance when not fully laden.

Simitian said he introduced the bill because of concerns about invasive species’ potential impact on “our coastal environment and economy, as well as the public’s health and safety.  The standards are rigorous, but attainable,” said Simitian.  “My hope,” he added, “is that these standards will be a model for other states.”

Ballast water is a leading cause of bioinvasions, when non-native plants, animals, bacteria and viruses are discharged into the marine environment from ballast water stored in large vessels’ holding tanks.  Ballast water is commonly taken up when ships are loaded in port and discharged when a ship reaches its destination.  Twenty-one billion gallons of ballast water are discharged into U.S. waters each year and at least 7,000 different species of marine life are transported in ballast water throughout the world each day.  Currently more than 250 non-native species have been transplanted to San Francisco Bay.

“Bioinvasions from ship ballast water is a major threat to marine life and biodiversity,” said Tim Eichenberg, Director of the Pacific Regional Office of The Ocean Conservancy, which worked on an advisory committee to the State Lands Commission to develop the ballast water standards enacted in SB 497.  “This legislation contains standards to reduce major impacts on our coastal waters, economy, public infrastructure and public health from invasive species, bacteria and viruses discharged from ballast water over the next 14 years, and provides a strong model for the rest of the nation.” 

Simitian’s bill implements the ballast water performance standards recommended by the State Lands Commission (SLC) earlier this year.  These standards require that ballast water treatment systems used in California release zero detectable organisms by 2020.  Violators of these strengthened ballast water protocols face increased fines than previously instated fines.  Additionally, the bill requires that the California Department of Fish and Game annually update its inventory of non-indigenous species in the state’s coastal and estuarine waters. 

Simitian said, “the cost of the problem is extraordinary, probably $120 billion annually on a national basis to control invasive species.  And the problem is getting worse with dramatic speed, as one new species is established every 14 weeks.  I am pleased that the bill is supported by the commercial fishing industry, the Association of California Water Agencies, the Regional Council on Rural Counties and many environmental groups including the Sierra Club, Bluewater Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council.”

To learn more about SB 497, visit