A Comprehensive Solution to the Biofouling Problem for the Endangered Florida Manatee and Other Species
Kathleen Oppenheimer Berkey, Esq., AICP
Pavese Law Firm
Todd K. BenDor
University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill
Environmental Law, Vol. 42, No. 2, 2012
Biofouling is the undesirable accumulation of microorganisms, plants, algae, arthropods, or mollusks on a surface, such as a ship’s hull, when it is in contact with water for a period of time. Biofouling and its traditional remedies pose serious environmental consequences, including 1) the transportation of nonindigenous aquatic species that can outcompete native species for space and resources, thereby reducing biodiversity and threatening the viability of fisheries or aquaculture, 2) the harmful accumulation of zinc- or copper-based toxins, and 3) the increase in weight, decrease in flexibility and mobility, and topical damage of marine mammals hosting biofouling organisms. There are a number of existing legal mechanisms that address biofouling under international law. However, due to the complexity of biofouling, this Article posits that existing mechanisms are inadequate for comprehensively regulating the problem, leaving aquatic species susceptible to numerous negative effects from biofouling. To address these inadequacies, we recommend biofouling also be mitigated under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). First, we consider the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) as a case study species, and suggest that Florida’s Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) areas develop a Safe Harbor umbrella agreement under section 10 of the ESA to create a new generation of ecological harbors that are safe from the dangers of biofouling. The agreement would include a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) that incorporates a combination of behavioral and infrastructural biofouling mitigation techniques to be applied regionally across estuary, freshwater, and saltwater ecosystems. Second, we suggest that both public and private owners of existing, proposed, and expanding marina developments be encouraged to voluntarily sign Safe Harbor Agreements under the RC&D areas’ umbrella agreement to avoid owners having to navigate the long and strenuous process of obtaining individual HCPs. The comprehensive biofouling management strategy proposed as a model here would require RC&D areas to carry out a range of biofouling best management practices that would protect species and the habitats on which they depend from the adverse effects of biofouling.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 53
Keywords: biofouling, marina, planning, environmental law, international law
Date posted: June 30, 2012
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