Surveying boat owners to protect Australia’s marine environment

Photo of ship hull showing biofouling.
Vessels that have biofouling may unintentionally transport invasive
plant and animal pest species to new locations within Australia’s
marine environment.

29 March 2017

ABARES social scientists are using social media to find out how Australia’s 1 million recreational boat owners keep their boats free of aquatic plants and animals and where recreational vessels sail around our continent.

This is part of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources investigating how to manage and protect Australia’s marine environment from incursions of unwanted pests and diseases through biofouling.

Biofouling occurs when aquatic plants and animals attach and grow on a vessel’s submerged areas, such as the hull and propeller. It can reduce the fuel efficiency and speed of a vessel, and increase maintenance costs to vessel owners.

Vessels that have biofouling may unintentionally transport invasive aquatic plant and animal pest species to new locations around Australian coast lines. This can pose a serious threat to native biodiversity and have widespread effects on the economy and ecosystem health.

ABARES’ Social Sciences team are delivering a national survey of recreational boat owners for the Marine Pest Unit (Animal Biosecurity). The survey will help the department to understand and support the recreational sector in self-managing biofouling.

The project is using a Facebook algorithm to reach recreational boat owners, which is a hard-to-identify and reach audience.

This algorithm identifies social media users who meet certain criteria, such as showing interest in boats, yachts, and sailing, or have purchased something boat related, to place an information tile with the survey lin​k in their Facebook news feed.

An email containing a request for assistance in distributing the survey, with communications tools attached, has also been sent to a wide range of stakeholders, such as yacht clubs, marina managers and government stakeholders involved in recreational boat management to help them encourage survey participation by boat owners in their areas.

The survey began on 1 February and runs until 31 July. For more information visit the department’s recreational ​ boat survey page, email recboatsurvey@agriculture.gov.au or call 1800 186 029 (toll free).

Last reviewed:
05 Dec 2017