Aim Recreational boating is arguably the largest unregulated vector for the introduction and spread of marine invasive species. Hull fouling communities have been recognized to harbour non-indigenous species (NIS), but presence should not be equated with transport. In this study, we characterize the presence of NIS in hull fouling communities, determine if host vessels transport these species and evaluate the importance of recreational boating as a vector for introduction and spread.
Location Coastal British Columbia (BC), Canada.
Methods Dive surveys in BC marinas were conducted to record the presence of NIS and to estimate their per cent cover. In addition, a boater questionnaire survey was used to determine common travel and maintenance practices. These results were combined to investigate the potential for recreational boats to transport NIS.
Results Nine NIS, including the highly invasive ascidians Styela clava and Botrylloides violaceus, and the macroalga Sargassum muticum, were found in hull fouling communities on recreational boats. Overall, per cent cover was generally low; however, niche areas were commonly fouled, even on active and otherwise clean boats. Fouling of niche areas was not related to either antifouling paint age or travel frequency, and fouling levels were highly variable among individual boats both within marinas and across regions.
Main conclusions Recreational boating is a major vector contributing to the spread of marine invasive species. Our results indicate that recreational boats represent a high-risk vector both for primary introduction and secondary spread of marine NIS and should be subject to vector management regulations.