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Biofouling as a Vector for Aquatic Invasive Species Introduction

National Advisory Meeting – National Capital Region

January 10-14, 2022
Virtual Meeting

Chairperson: Karen Smokorowski


A series of regional risk assessments conducted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) between 2012 and 2014 identified biofouling (i.e., the accumulation of living biological material on underwater ship surfaces) as a vector for the introduction of aquatic nonindigenous species (NIS), posing a threat to Canadian marine and freshwater ecosystems. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is mandated under the Fisheries Act to protect fish and fish habitat, including the prevention and management of aquatic nonindigenous species (i.e., species not native to the receiving water body) and invasive species (i.e., those NIS likely to cause harm). Meanwhile, Transport Canada (TC) regulates shipping activities under the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and is responsible for preventing the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) by ships (i.e., through ships’ ballast water and biofouling). During the last 15 years, TC has worked collaboratively with DFO to develop science-based policies and regulations to effectively manage ballast water. More recently, these efforts have expanded to include ship biofouling. To support these regulatory efforts, DFO research often focuses on examining the probability of establishment of species that are nonindigenous to the receiving environment, since the magnitude of impact or invasiveness may be unknown or difficult to predict, particularly when hundreds to thousands of species may be transported.

Transport Canada is requesting science advice from DFO to inform the development of commercial ship biofouling management policies that will better protect Canadian marine and aquatic ecosystems against AIS. Specifically, DFO is asked to conduct an updated national assessment of the probability of NIS introduction through biofouling, incorporating methods advanced during the last decade for assessment of ballast water risk. Throughout this assessment, probability of NIS introduction is used as a measure of potential ‘risk’, as species may be introduced that are yet to be identified as AIS. The term introduction is used to define the end-result of a species that has successfully arrived, survived, and established in Canadian waters. This assessment will include an examination of the potential for introduction of NIS through biofouling along domestic and international commercial shipping pathways, across Canadian freshwater and marine ports.


The objective of this science advisory process is to build on previous DFO regional risk assessments for ship-mediated introductions of aquatic NIS conducted in 2012 and 2014 (Bailey et al. 2012; Chan et al. 2012; Adams et al. 2014; Linley et al. 2014), in view of creating a comprehensive National Biofouling Risk Assessment using best available science. This process will advance the national risk assessment by incorporating new data and modeling methods, to determine:

  1. What are the probabilities of arrival, survival, and establishment of biofouling NIS posed by domestic and international commercial ships at freshwater and marine ports and anchorages, considering different operational and/or route characteristics (e.g., long stay vs. short stay) and additional factors identified in the scientific literature that could be used to predict probability of introduction of NIS by biofouling; and
  2. What effect will forecasted changes in shipping activity (as provided by TC) and temperature (as predicted by climate change model(s)) have on the probability of introduction of NIS by biofouling to freshwater and marine ecosystems of Canada (in particular, to the Arctic and other waterways where greater changes are expected)?

Expected Publications

Expected Participation


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