An invasive non-native worm species has been discovered on two boats in Ramsey, Isle of Man, and on boats at Whitehaven in Cumbria


A non-native invasive worm species has been found on boats in the Isle of Man and Whitehaven in Cumbria.

A boat-crane operator alerted the Isle of Man’s Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) in early October after noticing an unusual growth on the hulls and propellers of two boats. Both had been recently transported from Peel Marina to Ramsey for winter storage.

DEFA’s marine scientists took samples and subsequent investigations, including consultation with external experts, revealed the species is the Australian or trumpet tubeworm (Ficopomatus enigmaticus).

Ficopomatus enigmaticus

Ficopomatus enigmaticus – this fast-growing, colonising tubeworm attaches itself to man-made surfaces like boats by developing thick layers of calcareous tubes. Credit: Nature Photographers Ltd/Alamy

The southern hemisphere species is a fast-growing, colonising tubeworm that can cause problems for boaters by attaching itself to man-made surfaces by developing thick layers of calcareous tubes. They can also pose a risk to the environment and biodiversity in particular areas, and may be difficult to eradicate and control.

Dr Michelle Haywood, political member for the environment, said: “Invasive species like this can be spread from place to place attached to boat hulls, marine equipment and in bilge water, so owners should always take time to check and clean their vessels during annual maintenance, especially after travelling to new places, or known high risk areas.

“Globally invasive animals and plant species are one of the biggest threats to our biodiversity, and can result in significant costs to remove them, especially from harbours and marinas.”

Tubeworms attached to the bottom of boat, Ramsey, Isle of Man

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Due to the potential impact on ports and marinas, DEFA is working closely with the Department of Infrastructure’s Harbours team to develop a coordinated response.

Harbour keepers will be gathering information and monitoring vessel movement and maintenance works in their respective areas, and an information pack will be made available shortly to vessel and harbour users.

DEFA will continue to respond to requests to help identify unusual or potentially invasive species, but relies on reporting from the public and the Department of Infrastructure. Reports of potential invasive species should be emailed to with good quality pictures if possible.

Officials at Whitehaven Marina in Cumbria have also reported the presence of the Australian tubeworm on the hull, propellers and shafts of boats.

The invasive worm is rarely found in northern colder waters, but the exceptionally warm weather in July and August is believed to have allowed them to thrive.

The Environment Agency is helping the marina to take appropriate measures.