Managing biofouling is the key to reducing the spread of marine pests

Marine pests are most likely to be found on a vessel when it is heavily biofouled and organisms such as crabs, mussels, clams and seaweed can be seen.

You can reduce the risk of your fishing vessel spreading marine pests between fishing grounds and ports by incorporating practices that minimise the build-up of biofouling into your routine cleaning and maintenance programs.

To assist you to protect your fishing grounds and ports, the 'National biofouling management guidelines for commercial fishing vessels' provides practical information on managing biofouling.

The guidelines were developed in conjunction with the Australian fishing industry.

Applying the guidelines

The guidelines provide information for vessel owners, skippers, engineers and crews about vessel maintenance procedures and actions to prevent the spread of marine pests. The guidelines cover both trailered and non-trailered vessels.

The recommended practices are summarised below. For a complete version of the guidelines, download the 'National biofouling management guidelines for commercial fishing vessels' PDF Icon PDF [850 kb].

Managing biofouling during fishing operations

To help protect your fishing grounds, the guidelines recommend incorporating the following routine cleaning procedures into your normal operational routines. All vessel cleaning should take place as close as possible to your fishing ground to avoid spreading pests to new areas.

Normal deck activities

  • Clear decks and any niche areas that may harbour a marine pest, such as spaces under winches and around deck fittings.
  • Clean and dry mooring lines that have biofouling attached.
  • Clear warps and anchors of biological matter and mud/sand as they are hauled.
  • Regularly clean anchor and chain wells and lockers.

During fishing activities

  • Ensure that biological material entangled in dive gear is not transported to other dive sites.
  • Use locally sourced bait wherever possible to prevent the introduction of pests and diseases.
  • Return by-catch to the sea as close as possible to the point of capture.
  • If gear is cleaned in port, dispose of biological waste at on-shore facilities.
  • Stream nets as close as possible to fishing grounds. Dry nets out regularly or prior to transfer to another boat to ensure living biological matter is not spread from place to place. Do not stream your nets to clean them if you know or suspect that a marine pest is in your area.

Managing the use of live tanks and wells, and ballast systems

  • Exchange ballast water in accordance with the Australian Ballast Water Requirements.
  • Regularly check and clean live tanks, live wells and well holes for marine pests and biological matter.

Vessel maintenance to reduce biofouling

The guidelines also recommend incorporating the following procedures into your maintenance regimes.

Maintaining trailered vessels onshore

  • Check for and remove entangled or attached biological matter from the boat and trailer.
  • Check outboard and hull fixtures for water that could harbour potential pests (e.g. trim outboard down to let water out of the gearbox housing).
  • Rinse the boat inside and out with fresh water, drain and if possible, allow to dry if moving to another location within 48 hours.
  • Regularly remove slime from the hull to prevent the build-up of heavier secondary biofouling.
  • Dispose of any biological matter (including known marine pests) in bins or to landfill so that it cannot be returned to the water.

Maintaining non-trailered vessels and vessels that have raw water internal water systems

  • Conduct hull scraping at a designated on-shore facility (e.g. marina or slipway with waste trapping facilities). Biofouling debris from cleaning operations should be disposed of properly (refer to 'Anti-fouling and in-water cleaning guidelines').
  • Clean, and where possible, allow potential refuge spaces that could harbour marine pests to dry (e.g. live wells, anchor wells, propellers, sacrificial anodes, strainer boxes, around external keel pipes, raw water intakes, sea chests etc).
  • Treat internal water systems by cleaning intake and outlet points and by periodic flooding with fresh water prior to moving between regions.

Hull cleaning, antifouling coating and vessel maintenance

  • Note that guidance relating to hull cleaning and the application/removal of antifouling coatings coatings in Australia changed in June 2013. refer to the 'Anti-fouling and in-water cleaning guidelines' for information on how the changes may affect your operations.
  • Biofouling debris from cleaning operations should be disposed of properly (refer to 'Anti-fouling and in-water cleaning guidelines').
  • Consult an antifouling coating supplier for advice as required and select the most appropriate coating system based on your vessel type and operating profile. Note that antifouling products containing tributyltin (TBT) cannot be used in Australia.
  • Apply and remove antifouling products at designated on-shore facilities that comply with the 'Anti-fouling and in-water cleaning guidelines'.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying and removing antifouling products.
  • Renew antifouling coatings according to the minimum frequency recommended by the paint manufacturer.
  • Assess the effectiveness of antifouling coating on vessels that are immobile for a prolonged period. If necessary clean the hull and re-apply antifouling coating prior to proceeding to sea.
  • Regularly inspect unpainted surfaces and clean if necessary. Commercially available greases or other specified coatings can be applied to surfaces such as propellers to help keep them clean.
  • Keep records of hull maintenance and antifouling coatings in the vessel’s operations and maintenance manuals. Records may include antifouling product invoices (brand and type), place and date of application, date for renewal and a record of any official inspection carried out (e.g. at survey).