Biochemical research may help repel barnacles

By Peter Kent

While seeking to unlock the secrets of how oysters make their shells, marine biologist Andy Mount discovered a promising treatment for a billion-dollar problem in maritime industries.

He hypothesized that the calcification part of the shell-making process might enable sea creatures to colonize an underwater surface. Called bio-fouling, the barnacles, mussels and algae that cling to undersea surfaces cause shipping companies, boatyards, offshore oil rig operators, fish-farming operations, undersea pipeline and cable companies to spend more than $1.4 billion a year.

Traditional remedies have been to either scrape surfaces or to chemically coat them. Scraping is an expensive, temporary answer, and chemical coatings can harm the environment.

Mount’s research, funded by the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research, focuses on the biochemical signal that oysters transmit to repel hangers-on. “The research holds promise for development of advanced materials and biomedical companies within our state,” he said.

For information: Andy Mount, 864-656-3597,