The importance of Biofouling Management to prevent Harmful Non-Native Marine Species  

Researchers examined a coral community on a semi-submersible platform, which was moored at the leeward side of Curaçao from August 2016 to August 2017. They found several species that had never been seen in the Southern Caribbean. This underscores the importance of biofouling management to control the potential spread of harmful non-native species to new areas. 

Morphotypes of Tubastraea on the platform’s submerged sections, March 2017.
Photo credit: T. Weber

Among the discoveries were two types of stoney corals (Orange cup coral (Tubastraea coccinea) and T. tagusensis) and two soft corals (Chromonephthea sp. and an unidentified Nephtheidae sp.). This marked the first time T. tagusensis and the Chromonephthea genus were recorded in the southern Caribbean. Additionally, a unique sea squirt (Perophora cf. regina) and a coral-associated snail (Petaloconchus sp.) were also spotted, both new to the region. 

Why This Matters 

The introduction of non-native species to new environments can have profound effects. Primarily, they are spread by human activities, often unintentionally. People and the goods we use travel around the world very quickly, and they often carry uninvited species with them. Invasive alien species entering a new area can have major ecological effects by decimating native flora or fauna. They can also cause significant economic losses and impact human health. 

In this case, the platform likely served as a transport for some species, demonstrating how human-made structures can unintentionally spread marine life across oceans. Monitoring such structures is crucial for tracking the presence and dispersal of non-native, potential invasive species. 

Impressions of the well-developed fouling coral community dominated by Tubastraea spp. on the submerged sections of the platform Safe Regency in Curaçao (April–May 2017).
Photo credit: J. Bruijninckx.


Observed nonnative corals 

The recorded invasive orange cup coral (Tubastraea coccinea) was already first noted in the 1930’s in Curaçao. Nowadays it is very common on natural and artificial substrates in shallow waters in Curaçao and its neighboring islands Aruba and Bonaire. 

The other Tubastraea species present on the platform, Tubastraea tagusensis, originally from the Galapagos, was recorded for the first time in the Southern Caribbean. It has been found in Brazil since 2000 and Northern Gulf of Mexico since 2015. Off the coast of Brazil, this species has quickly overtaken a number of local ecosystems including mussel beds, the Amazon River’s reef system as well as rocky shores.  

Also the two soft corals of the genus Chromonephthea, native to the Indo-Pacific, were new to the Southern Caribbean. 

The Challenge  

This research in Curaçao underscores the importance of monitoring semi-submersible platforms and similar structures and biofouling management. It shows the interconnectedness of our oceans and the need for international cooperation in managing marine biodiversity. It also highlights the importance of defouling of submersible platforms to prevent the colonization of reefs by non-native species, which potentially can disrupt local marine ecosystems, once platforms become moored nearshore for long periods of time. As we continue to explore and utilize our oceans, balancing human exploration with the preservation of marine biodiversity becomes increasingly critical. 

Aerial views by drone (April 2017), showing proximity to the reef. Photo credit: F. Ermert (Dronepicr; CC-BY-2.0)




The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) supports (science) communication and outreach in the Dutch Caribbean region by making nature related (scientific) information more widely available through amongst others the Dutch Caribbean Biodiversity Database, DCNA’s news platform BioNews and through the press. This article contains the results from several scientific studies but the studies themselves are not DCNA studies. No rights can be derived from the content. DCNA is not liable for the content and the in(direct) impacts resulting from publishing this article.     

More info in the Dutch Caribbean Biodiversity Database

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