Various antifouling (AF) coatings have been developed to protect submerged surfaces by deterring the settlement of the colonizing stages of fouling organisms. A review of the literature shows that effective AF compounds with specific targets are ones often considered non-toxic. Such compounds act variously on ion channels, quorum sensing systems, neurotransmitters, production/release of adhesive, and specific enzymes that regulate energy production or primary metabolism. In contrast, AF compounds with general targets may or may not act through toxic mechanisms. These compounds affect a variety of biological activities including algal photosynthesis, energy production, stress responses, genotoxic damage, immunosuppressed protein expression, oxidation, neurotransmission, surface chemistry, the formation of biofilms, and adhesive production/release. Among all the targets, adhesive production/release is the most common, possibly due to a more extensive research effort in this area. Overall, the specific molecular targets and the molecular mechanisms of most AF compounds have not been identified. Thus, the information available is insufficient to draw firm conclusions about the types of molecular targets to be used as sensitive biomarkers for future design and screening of compounds with AF potential. In this review, the relevant advantages and disadvantages of the molecular tools available for studying the molecular targets of AF compounds are highlighted briefly and the molecular mechanisms of the AF compounds, which are largely a source of speculation in the literature, are discussed. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.