Boost Biosecurity: Why washing your wetsuit is good for the environment

See the term ‘biosecurity’ and you would be forgiven for thinking that you had stumbled across yet another COVID related article about handwashing or lateral flow tests. But no, these next 2 minutes of reading are all about the importance of washing and checking your wetsuit (in fact all your swim gear) for any piece of plant, microscopic organism or invertebrate that you do not want to transfer to your next swim spot.

Why not? Because the impact of moving a non-native invasive species is huge. The tiniest bit of organic material has the potential to wreak havoc on entire eco systems, reduce water quality, clog waterways and block pipes.

Pennywort River Wey         

(A section of The Wey Navigation in Surrey clogged by invasive Pennywort and after clearing)

To name just a few of these environmental hand grenades,

  • New Zealand Pigmy Weed – causing widespread problems in the Lake District as it forms huge dense mats across a lake bed covering up spawning grounds and pushing out native species.
  • Floating Pennywort – it can grow up to 18cm a day, blocking waterways and reducing oxygen levels.
  • Chinese Mitten Crab – the only crab you will find in freshwater in the UK. Erode river banks. 
  • Killer Shrimp - (name says it all) Eats native species and carries parasites that could impact fish stocks. Easily transported and can survive out of water a long time.

And it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to remove them.

So every time, you dip, swim, paddle, dive, take time to…

  • CHECK your equipment, clothing, body and hair for living organisms. Pay particular attention to damp or hard to inspect areas. 
  • CLEAN and wash all equipment, footwear and clothes thoroughly. If you do come across any organisms, leave them at the water body where you found them or on a hard surface to die out. 
  • DRY all equipment and clothing. Some species can live for many days in damp conditions

And if you are planning a multi dip adventure, prepare to change swim gear between swims or know where you can wash your gear out thoroughly.

If you are in need of a good wetsuit cleaner, here at Tri Wetsuit Hire we love Coco Loco's wetsuit shampoo. Any wetsuit cleaner will do, but make sure it is wetsuit specific and that you follow all instructions to ensure the neoprene isn't damaged.

So if it's not for the pong do it for the protection of the beautiful places we swim in. With the increase in popularity of swimming, it is even more important that we spread the word and not the weed.

Jude Palmer is an experienced wild swimmer, swim runner and Open Water Swimming Coach, Trail Running Coach based in Surrey. She loves nothing more than sharing her love for adventure with others. Follow her on social media @RunSurreyHills

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