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Galapagos Islands host international workshop on biofouling management in marine protected areas

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

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The Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, home to some of the world's most uniquely endemic wildlife species, hosted an international workshop, organised by GloFouling Partnerships, on biofouling management to prevent the spread of invasive aquatic species in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAs). The event was held from 6 to 9 June 2023 and brought together marine biosecurity experts and policy-makers from the GloFouling LPCs and other countries at the Charles Darwin Foundation - an international non-profit organization dedicated to the environmental conservation of the Galapagos archipelago, around 1000km off the coast of Ecuador.

MPAs and a range of other area-based conservation measures, such as IMO’s Particularly Sensitive Sea Area concept, are globally important environmental management tools that provide protection from the effects of human exploitation and activities, supporting the conservation of marine biodiversity, ecosystems and the processes they support, as well as resources in a broad sense. MPAs have the potential to address many of the pressures threatening marine biodiversity, in particular over-exploitation of resources, harmful fishing practices, and habitat destruction.


However, MPAs themselves are also at risk of impacts of human activities. The introduction of invasive aquatic species to MPAs, in particular, may have significant impacts on their ecological structure and function, due to changing species composition and the introduction of species that can significantly outcompete and displace native species. Despite this, while the impacts of invasive species are considered a management concern by many MPA experts, the issue is often overlooked in MPA planning and regulation, with only a small proportion of MPA management plans including specific management controls for non-native species.

The workshop provided experts from 20 countries with an opportunity to exchange views, methods and practices for prevention, risk assessment, inspection, monitoring, early detection and rapid response to the introduction of invasive species via ships' biofouling. One key aspect of the event was the opportunity for participants to witness practical demonstrations, such as the use of underwater drones for inspection, standardised methods for monitoring and sampling, the latest advances on anti-fouling solutions and approaches for diver-based inspection of vessels Throughout the week, group discussions enabled experts to debate possible solutions and ways forward to tackle the biofouling issue.

As a result of this workshop, a report will be published later this year bringing together recommendations and a wealth of resources on the specific aspects that MPA administrators need to consider when developing biosecurity measures related to vessel biofouling as a vector for invasive aquatic species.


The workshop would have not been possible without the strong support and the wealth of expertise provided by institutions based in the islands, such as the Galapagos National Park Authority (DPNG), the Galapagos Biosecurity Agency (ABG) and the Charles Darwin Foundation. Additionally, the Ecuadorian Navy (through DIRNEA) facilitated the use of one of its coastguard vessels for practical demonstrations.

From left to right: Mr Danny Rueda (DPNG), Ambasador Jose Luis Nestor Perez Sanchez Cerro (CPPS), Dr. Lilia Khodjet El Khil (GloFouling Partnerships), Dr. Marilyn Cruz (ABG) and Captain Javier Alvarado (Ecuadoria Navy)

Read more here about the issue of biofouling and invasive aquatic species.

See available databases of invasive aquatic species here. A photo gallery of the MPA biosecurity workshop can be found here.

IMO team from left to right: John Alonso (Technical Project Analyst at GloFouling), Lilia Khodjet El Khil (Technical Project Manager at GloFouling), Jurga Šaule (Senior Project Assistant at GloFouling), Yeongjoo Baek (Technical Project Manager at TEST Biofouling) and Teo Karayannis (Head for Marine Biosafety). Also those not present in the photo: Karine Langlois (Social Media and Communications Officer), Andrew Birchenough (Technical Officer for for London Convention/Protocol & Ocean Affairs) and Carolina Reyes (Project Assistant at GloFouling)

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