It's time to tackle non-native species


A few simple steps can curb the threat from invasive plants and creatures.

While you’re enjoying your cruising, have you considered that you might be attracting unwanted guests to your vessel?

Invasive species can hitch a ride on the outside of vessels and in spaces within them, as well as on equipment and clothing, and it’s all too easy to unknowingly spread animals, eggs, larvae and tiny plant fragments from one body of water to another.

The RYA and British Marine's environment campaign, The Green Blue, is supporting Invasive Species Week (13-17 May), giving clubs and cruisers a chance to get involved and protect the UK’s waters from non-native species.

Around 2,000 non-native plants and animals from all over the world have been introduced to the UK by people. Invasive non-native species can block up waterways, make navigation difficult and cause irreparable damage to the environment. Once in a waterway they can disperse rapidly, adversely affecting recreational facilities, reducing fish populations and restricting navigation.

It is estimated that the threat to biodiversity from these invaders is second only to that of habitat loss. There are about 140 aquatic non-native species in Britain. Many species thrive in both salt and fresh water. Their main means of spreading is via boat hulls or propellers, or within bilge or engine cooling water systems.

How can I get involved?

Everyone can help to prevent their spread by following the Check Clean Dry routine and by putting up a sign to remind fellow boaters to do the same. Sharing a photo of biosecurity in action on social media under #InvasivesWeek will also help to deliver the message.

Since the launch of the Check, Clean, Dry campaign in 2011, The Green Blue has provided a wealth of information and guidance to inland and coastal clubs and boaters about the steps they can take to minimise the spread of non-native species.

  • Share a photo on social media under #InvasivesWeek.
  • Remind your fellow cruisers that they may be unknowingly helping to spread invasive species from one water body to another.
  • Access the free online training to learn more about non-native species, how to identify them and how you can prevent them from spreading.
  • Become a Check, Clean, Dry champion and contact The Green Blue for free materials you can use to raise awareness.

Reporting invasive species

The Environmental Audit Committee has launched a new inquiry to consider the impact and threat to biosecurity from invasive species. It is hoped this will act as a reminder for people to report sightings of non-native species, providing useful biological records to inform the GB Invasive Non-native Species Strategy. Find out how to record sightings here:

Some of the species threatening our environment

Carpet sea squirt

  • While each individual organism is tiny (1mm long), carpet sea squirt grows in colonies which can cover several square kilometres and any other species in its way.

American lobster  

  • Much larger and more aggressive than the European species, American lobster could threaten native lobsters and other economically important species, such as brown crabs, through competition and disease.

Slipper limpet  

  • These form chains and stacks which can contain up to 15 individuals.
  • They can starve and smother native shellfish and be a serious pest to oyster and mussel beds.

For more information, visit Follow the campaign on Twitter @CheckCleanDry and @TheGreenBlue #InvasivesWeek