Biofouling with the build-up of organisms on equipment can cost the various sectors in marine industries including aquaculture millions of pounds a year.
There are engineering concerns because biofouling increases loads on chains and ropes and equipment, it can deform cages for farmed fish and weaken the structures.
Biofouling can also restrict water exchange through the nets which in turn will affect fish health and feed conversion rates, bringing about increased disease risk and a greater biological competition in the farms.
Apart from biofouling, the introduction of invasive non-native species into the waters is also having a highly detrimental effect on the aquaculture sector in Scotland.
According to the Scottish Association of Marine Science’s research arm SAMSRSL non-native species are costing the British marine industries £40 million a year in reduced efficiency, productivity and extra expense.
Those heaviest hit include aquaculture, fisheries, power generation and shipping. More than 90 marine NNS have been identified from British and Irish waters, of which 17 are now established in Scotland.
The new regulations that are being introduced in Scotland amend the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act and mean that it is now an offence to introduce non-native species into Scottish waters through commercial or recreational activities, even if the introduction was accidental.
The new powers allow the government to serve voluntary, statutory and then emergency Species Control Orders on businesses to reverse the situation.
The expense of eradicating the non-native species falls firmly on the shoulders of the polluter.
“Non-native species have an ecological concern although not all are damaging,” said Dr Adrian Macleod from SAMSRSL speaking at the recent Aquaculture UK in Aviemore.
“We are creating habitats and vectors on artificial sources and there are large economic losses because of this.”
Dr Macleod said that the ecological damage is being caused because the non-native species compete with the native species for food and they also introduce disease.
The carpet sea squirt, Styela Clava, has hit mussel bed in particular. Another non-native species increasing in British waters is the Japanese Skeleton Shrimp.
The new legislation that is being introduced requires marine industries including the aquaculture sector to take reasonable steps and adopt a policy of due diligence to prevent non-native invasive species from taking hold in Scottish waters.
Dr Macleod said there needs to be a precautionary approach to prevent both the spread of non-native species and the build-up of biofouling.
He said that companies should adopt a policy of risk assessment and monitoring and developing a biosecurity plant to minimise the risk.
He said that for the aquaculture sector this is already part of the nature of the day to day working as similar plans are drawn up to prevent the introduction and spread of disease.
“Prevention is the best option as cures can be very expensive,” said Dr Macleod.
He said that the best way to build a precautionary approach was to adopt a HACCP – hazard analysis and critical control point – system.
Dr Macleod added that the adoption of new precautionary measures is taking place at a national level across Scotland and he believed that in future all aquaculture sites will be required to have HACCP plans for their biosecurity.
He said there are seven basic steps in developing the plan:
- Build an understanding of the site
- Describe the activities on the site
- Describe the control measures already in place
- Decide the critical control points in the activity
- Bring these critical control points into a biosecurity plan and into instructions for the workforce
- Monitor and report the actions as they take place and
- Have a contingency plan if things should go wrong.
He said that having a scientifically defensible biosecurity plan, based on best practices can help avoid prosecution and the associated financial cost if something goes wrong.
The biosecurity plan also highlights the company’s green credentials in responding responsibly to serious environmental threat.