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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.


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.

Identifying Invasive Species

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


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 you play a key role in educating and raising awareness of biosecurity amongst your members, customers and staff. As well as providing best practice guidance and suitable facilities for effective invasive species prevention.



Check, Clean and 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 site, it is best practice to have all boats, equipment and gear 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/craft and trailer drain water from every part and all equipment that can hold water, including outboard engines, any water that collects in bilges, before leaving a site and before arriving at another site to launch. Clothing and equipment should be thoroughly dried for as long as possible before it is used elsewhere as this reduces the survival rate of invasive species which can survive in damp conditions for many weeks if not dried.

Operating Boats on the Water: 

  • Boat users should avoid sailing or motoring through water plants and weed if possible. This brings the boat/craft into contact with vegetation increasing the risk of INNS attaching and can increase the risk of INNS getting caught up on the hull or propeller,  further helping to transfer them to another area where they can establish.
  • After anchoring, remove any visible biofouling from the anchor and chain and where possible wash them with clean tap water before stowing away. This is so any INNS that may have attached will be left at the anchorage site and not spread to a new site next time the anchor is used.  Many invasive plants and animals can be found in the substrate, making the anchor a key vector.

Boats Kept on the Water During the Season:

  • After being out on the water and returning back to a mooring, pontoon or jetty for example,  it is important for boats, equipment and gear to undergo the Check Clean and Dry process.
  • If the boat is on the water but not in use and stationary for a period of time it is more likely to accumulate biofouling which may contain INNS. If possible, ensure equipment is raised out of the water (including outboard engine propellers, ropes and fenders) to minimise the risk of species attaching.
  • Boats should be used as often as possible and hulls cleaned regularly to remove algae with a soft brush or sponge to help prevent the build up of biofouling and growth if INNS. This will also save on time, effort and money having it cleaned off.
  • If bio-fouling can not be wiped off using a soft brush or sponge whilst on the water, it needs to be lifted and scrubbed onshore.
  • An appropriate anti-fouling coat system and good maintenance are the best way of preventing biofouling accumulation if boats are remaining in the water.

Boat Storage on Site:

  • If possible always recover and store any boats or craft on land until it’s next use, as this will help minimise the risk of INNS attaching if left in the water.
  • Store boats and outboard engines in a location where any run-off does not drain into a water body (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.
  • Towel dry your boat/craft where possible after washing with clean tap water and leave to air-dry in the sun for as long as possible before putting covers on. Dry conditions and UV-rays helps to minimise the survival of any aquatic invasive species that might still be attached.

Submerged 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.

Related Resources

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