The introduction and establishment of Invasive Aquatic Species (IAS) is considered as one of the threats to the biodiversity of the world’s freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems. The global economic impacts of IAS, including disruption to fisheries, damage to coastal industry and infrastructure, shipping industry, tourism industry and marine ecosystem services, have been estimated at several hundred million dollars per year (IMO). The main vectors of the unintentional transfer of non-indigenous species are ships' ballast water, biofouling of mobile marine structures and aquaculture practices.
Biofouling is the accumulation of aquatic microorganisms, plants, algae, or small animals on the surfaces and structures immersed or exposed to the aquatic environment. Significant research during the last 20 years have confirmed that biofouling had been underestimated as a possible vector for non-indigenous species and may in fact be one of the main mechanisms for their introduction or expansion of species into new marine or freshwater habitats.
Improving or minimizing biofouling on ships has the added benefit of improving their energy efficiency. As a result, biofouling has been identified as one of the potential key resources that may contribute in the short term to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the shipping industry.
In order to improve the management of biofouling, minimize its role as a potential vector for the introduction of IAS and help maritime industries to reduce their carbon footprint, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) have launched the GloFouling Partnerships Project. The project includes a conscious effort to seek the expertise accumulated by the private sector, through the Global Industry Alliance (GIA) for Marine Biosafety, a cross-sectoral platform that brings together global industries from maritime, shipping, ocean energy, aquaculture and other ocean-based industries to help identify common difficulties and solutions, facilitate technology development and break barriers for its uptake with the ultimate goal of improved biofouling management.
As a follow-up seminar to a Regional Seminar on Biofouling Management and Invasive Aquatic Species in the East Asian Seas which took place in 23 June 2021, this collab which is part of a series of collabs under the East Asian Seas Congress 2021 focused at sharing the latest technology and research initiatives and discussed how they may help maritime industries to address issues related to biofouling, in support of the implementation of the IMO Biofouling Guidelines at the regional and national levels in the ASEAN region.