Biological Invasions

, Volume 12, Issue 8, pp 2573–2583 | Cite as

Semi-submersible rigs: a vector transporting entire marine communities around the world

  • Ross M. WanlessEmail author
  • Sue Scott
  • Warwick H. H. Sauer
  • Timothy G. Andrew
  • James P. Glass
  • Brian Godfrey
  • Charles Griffiths
  • Eleanor Yeld
Original Paper


A virtually intact subtropical reef community (14 phyla, 40 families and 62 non-native taxa) was associated with a rig under tow from Brazil that became stranded on the remote island of Tristan da Cunha. This exposes rigs as a significant vector spreading alien marine organisms, and includes the first records of free-swimming marine finfish populations becoming established after unintentional movement. With relatively trivial effort, a pre-tow clean would have obviated the need to salvage and dispose of the rig (undertaken largely to address concerns about invasive species), at a cost of ~US$20 million. Our findings show that towing biofouled structures across biogeographic boundaries present unexcelled opportunities for invasion to a wide diversity of marine species. Better control and management of this vector is required urgently. Simultaneous, unintentional introductions of viable populations of multiple marine organisms are rare events, and we develop a basic framework for rapid assessment of invasion risks.


Invasive alien marine species Marine environmental management Oil rigs Risk assessment 



The Captains and crew of the fishing vessels M.V. Kelso and the M.V. Edinburgh, staff from Ovenstones Agencies and the Salvage Master and members of the Titan salvage crew all provided invaluable support. The Tristan Administrator at the time, Mike Hentley, members of the Island Council and residents of Tristan are thanked for their assistance and hospitality. Peter Holloway worked closely with the second survey team to ensure the success of work above- and below-water. The following assisted with identification: Rob Anderson (algae), Wouter Holleman and Phil Heemstra (fish), Peter Wirtz (invertebrates and fish) and Ashley Kirk-Spriggs (insects).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ross M. Wanless
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sue Scott
    • 2
  • Warwick H. H. Sauer
    • 3
  • Timothy G. Andrew
    • 4
  • James P. Glass
    • 5
  • Brian Godfrey
    • 4
  • Charles Griffiths
    • 6
  • Eleanor Yeld
    • 7
  1. 1.Percy FitzPatrick Institute, DST/NRF Centre of ExcellenceUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa
  2. 2.Strome House, North StromeLochcarronScotland, UK
  3. 3.Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries ScienceRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa
  4. 4.Enviro-Fish AfricaGrahamstownSouth Africa
  5. 5.Agriculture and Natural Resources DepartmentTristan da CunhaSouth Atlantic
  6. 6.Centre for Invasion Biology, Zoology DepartmentUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa
  7. 7.Marine Biology Research Centre, Zoology DepartmentUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa

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