Boat Hull Maintenance Strategies to Minimize Marine Pollution

Boatyard managers and boat owners are essential to preserving water quality and healthy marine life.  Here is a short introduction to antifouling paint additives, aquatic impacts, followed by several best practice factsheets and videos below.

By nature and intended purpose, antifouling additives in hull paints (also called biocides) are toxic to certain marine life, and sometimes at very low concentrations.  The biocides leach from boat bottoms over time, to protect the boat bottoms from fouling, algae, and other marine growth, such as mussels.

Copper compounds and zinc pyrithione are examples of metal-based biocides. Chemical biocides include Econea, Irgarol, and Sea-Nine 211.   All are federally regulated pesticides.  Non-biocidal coatings rely on hardness, slickness, or photoactivity to deter fouling, instead of biocides

Corroded Zinc Plate Anode on Hull

Another marine toxin is contributed by sacrificial zinc anodes, which protect underwater metal boat parts from corrosion. Traditionally, anodes have been zinc, with a possible trace of cadmium.  Both exhibit high marine toxicity to some marine species.  

Biocides and zinc anode pollution are concerning when many boats are concentrated in a marina or inlet.  These chemicals release over time, and concentrate due to low water exchange, and can affect marine life and plants. These areas are attractive breeding grounds where early life stages can be sensitive to biocides and zinc. 




Biocide concentration in marinas can further increase when paint dust, particles, or sludge from hull paint removal, pressure washing, or other hull maintenance activities and wastes are mismanaged.

This may contribute to additional biocide contaminants reaching water bodies through stormwater drains or airborne deposition.


The factsheets and videos below provide best practice suggestions to minimize impacts to marine life and water quality from boat hull maintenance and repair activities.    


Pressure Washing (English) (Spanish)

Antifouling Paint Removal Best Practices (English) (Spanish)

Zinc Anode Alternatives & End of Life Management (English)

Wastes Containing Biocides: Designation & Disposal (English) (Spanish)

Do It Yourself Tips for Minimizing Antifouling Pollution (English) (Spanish)


Antifouling Paint Removal Best Practices

Four Simple Tips to Minimize Dust and Waste Releases from Sanding and Paint Removal (Dustless Vacuum Systems, Sanding Technique, Removed Paint Waste Handling, and Designation & Disposal)

Sacrificial Anode Best Practices and Alternatives 

A Message from the Washington State Department of Ecology on Marine Toxicity and Management of Antifouling Paints and Paint Dust

Additional Resources and References


  • A Washington State Department of Ecology Public Participation Grant funded development of these resources
  • Clean Boating Foundation provided support to the project
  • Additional thanks to Pangeality Productions, Canal Boatyard, CSR Boatyard, Swantown Boatworks, Fisheries Supply in Seattle, Martyr Anodes, Washington Sea Grant and Oregon Sea Grant