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Biosecurity are the actions carried out to minimise the risk of invasive non-native species (INNS). A non-native species is any wild species that has become established outside of their normal habitat. Some non-native species are completely harmless but others, known as invasive or alien species, have the ability to cause damage to the environment, the economy, our health and the way we live. Biosecurity is essential to minimise risks associated with invasive species in order to protect our waters and native wildlife.


What’s the problem:

Invasive non-native species (INNS) can be transported to Great Britain in a number of different ways including by shipping vessels, aquaculture industries, and accidental/intentional release and even by being swept across an ocean on currents. They can also be transported from place to place by hitching a ride on boat hulls, anchors and propellers, or being carried in ballast and bilge water.


The spread of invasive species is becoming a major issue in both marine and inland waters around the world because they compete with native plants and wildlife and can cause major changes to entire ecosystems.


As well as the devastating environmental impacts, non-native species can spread disease, restrict navigation, block waterways, clog up propellers and add significantly to the management costs of our waterways.

Recreational facilities can also suffer as a result of these invasive species, as well as the boating community who may face restrictions on accessing certain waters.


Fast-growing species like Zebra Mussels are already causing problems in many areas, blocking engine cooling water intakes resulting in engines over-heating. Didemnum Vexillum, known as the Carpet Sea Squirt, has a smothering effect; covering aquatic habitats in thick sheet-like growths and interfering with fishery and aquaculture operations. Once established, non-native species become extremely difficult and expensive to eradicate.

How do you identify them?


It’s not always easy to identify these species, but there are some guides available to help:


GB NNSS guides and maps

MBA non-native species guides


For more information on how non-native species can affect biodiversity, human health and the economy, read this informative article by the European Environment Agency.


By showing that the boating community is taking a proactive stance, we aim to hopefully avoid potentially mandatory measures being introduced to control the spread of INNS, which would directly impact the sport.


The management of INNS can already be found in UK legislation:


The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (NERC) 2006 are the key laws that tackle the threat of non-native species and their impact on the UK ecosystems. These acts make it an offence to release into the wild any animal, plant or micro-organisms not ordinarily resident to the UK or which constitutes a known threat; it bans the sale of invasive species, and provides the Secretary of State with additional powers to issue or approve codes relating to non-native species.


Some areas, including Anglian Water Park, have introduced byelaws enforcing biosecurity measures such as the ‘Check Clean Dry’ to be carried out. Recreational boaters must comply or risk being fined.


In addition, the RYA was commissioned by the Council of Europe to develop a European Code of Practice on Recreational Boating and Invasive Alien Species to ensure that the recreational boating community is playing it’s part to stop the spread across Europe. It was adopted by the Bern Convention in November 2016.


As a centre, club or association it is your responsibility to educate and raise awareness, advocate good biosecurity practice and supply as well as promote the suitable facilities for effective biosecurity.

Check, Clean, Dry!


Check, Clean, Dry” is the best way to protect both your stretch of water and others around the country from INNS. You may have already visited a club or site already actively dealing with these problems and may therefore be well versed in the “Check, Clean, Dry” process.


If you haven’t, or even if you rarely take your boats away from your club, it is good advice to have all boats, checked, cleaned and dried before getting back on the water.


  • Check boats, equipment and clothing for living plants and animals. Pay particular attention to areas that are damp or hard to inspect.
  • Clean and wash all equipment thoroughly with freshwater and anti-foul boats annually. Remove visible fouling and put in the bin, not back in the water.
  • Dry responsibly! When recovering a boat, trailer, dinghy, Personal Watercraft or RIB, drain water from every part and all equipment that can hold water, including any water that collects in bilges, before leaving the site. Clothing and equipment should be thoroughly dried for as long as possible before it is used elsewhere.

You can support good practice on your site by:


  • Raising awareness of the issue of INNS and promote good practice.
  • Providing and promoting facilities which can be a simple accessible tap with a hose, to a wash down facility area with the suitable drainage.
  • Include biosecurity measures in all boating relating actively and events.

Good practice to limit the risk of INNS includes:

On the Water

  • Avoid sailing or motoring through water plants and weed if possible. This can chop up plants and can spread them further. If caught up on the hull or propeller, invasive alien species can be transferred to another area.
  • If the boat is on the water but not in use and stationary for a period of time, if possible, raise propellers out of the water to minimize the risk of species entering the engine. Use your boat regularly to prevent biofouling of the hull and engine.
  • If an anchor has been used, wash off both the anchor and chain before stowing.


After Use

  • Once the boat is on shore, remove all visible plant and animal material and put in the bin.
  • Use freshwater to wash down all parts of the boat that have been in contact with the water (including outboard, trailer and trolley/vehicle tyres). Pay attention to any crevices.
  • Drain all water from the boat, including bilges.
  • Flush the engine with clean fresh water before leaving the site using appropriate equipment, flush muffs or in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations. Allow the water to drain completely from the engine in a vertical down position.
  • Wash and dry all equipment, clothing and footwear. Drying for as long as possible is important because species can survive in damp conditions for up to two weeks.


Boat storage on Land

  • Store boats and outboard engines in a location where any run-off does not drain into a waterbody (e.g. drains, gullies or rivers).
  • Return any engines to their vertical down position to drain.
  • Use the general waste bin to dispose of any plant or animal material found in prop bags or other equipment.


If boats are normally kept in the water, the Check, Clean, Dry approach may not be a practical method of preventing the spread of INNS:

  • An appropriate anti-fouling coating system and good maintenance are the best way of preventing biofouling accumulation, which therefore minimises the risk of spread.
  • Lifting boats from the water, scrubbing and antifouling hulls annually keeps boat hulls clean, and has environmental benefits including both preventing the spread of non-native species and also improving fuel efficiency, however it is toxic to aquatic life.
  • Boat owners can play a vital role in preventing concentrated scrapings from entering the water by choosing a marine facility that uses a wash-down system that captures run off and by following the Green Blue’s best practice advice.


Static structures

  • Any structures or equipment such as pontoons, piles and buoys which have been submerged in water for a time also pose a higher risk of spreading invasive species and so extra care should be taken when moving or working with them.
  • Read more about specific biosecurity guidance for submerged structures.


Additional Resources:

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