Assessing Efficacy of “Eco-Friendly” and Traditional Copper-Based Antifouling Materials in a Highly Wave-Exposed Environment

Resumen: Biofouling control on human-made structures and seagoing technologies that minimize environmental impacts is a major focus of research in marine industries. However, the most widely used antifouling (AF) method is still copper-based coatings. Some “eco-friendly” approaches are commercially available but have been scarcely tested in natural conditions, especially high-energy environments. We conducted a replicated long-term field experiment in a highly wave-exposed, high productivity coastal environment to test three untreated materials used in maritime industries, two traditional copper-based AF coatings, and two materials offered as “eco-friendly” AF in the market (i.e., a slow-copper release and a self-adhesive, fiber-covered, skin-like coating). We showed that biofouling cover and biomass increased at similar rates over time among all untreated materials, including the skin-like AF. The two traditional copper-based AF coatings and the slow-release AF paint both showed similarly low biofouling biomass and richness, demonstrating their efficacy after 12 months in the field. Although the “eco-friendly” slow-release technologies are not completely innocuous to the environment, we suggest this approach over the more environmentally aggressive traditional copper paints, which are the most widely used in aquaculture and shipping industries today. However, further research is needed to test whether their environmental impact is significantly lower in the long-term than traditional AF paints, and therefore the search for non-toxic coating must continue. The fortuitous settlement and growth of sea urchins in our experiments also suggest that a combination of “eco-friendly” AF and biological control would be possible and should be further investigated. The skin-like coatings must be tested under different environmental conditions, and they are not recommended in wave-exposed coastal habitats.

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