Most objects placed in the ocean will become covered with marine
organisms after a period of time. Barnacles, anemones, sponges, algae,
bryozoans, tunicates, hydroids, amphipods and isopods are a few of the
many organisms that make up fouling communities.
Most of these organisms spend the larval stage of their lives drifting
on the ocean currents as part of the plankton. Eventually they mature and
attach themselves to solid objects where they will remain the rest of
their adult lives.
Fouling organisms can easily be observed living on the rocks of your
favorite tide pool. However, fouling communities commonly establish
themselves on docks, pilings and ships where they become problems for
A fouling community well established on the bottom of a ship will
increase drag enough to slow it down, and cause increased fuel
consumption. A greater problem is the resulting spread of invasive
non-native species around the globe. These invasive species can have a
catastrophic effect on native ecosystems.
To combat these problems ships must constantly be cleaned and
maintained. Many ship owners apply highly toxic anti-fouling paint to
their hulls. Although the toxic paint keeps most fouling organisms away,
it also poses a harmful threat to any aquatic organisms living around
ports. Scientists are working hard to find nontoxic anti-fouling surfaces
that could help solve this problem.