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Assessing the Risk of Introducing Exotic Species via the Live Marine Species Trade

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Although the shipping industry has received considerable attention as a dispersal mechanism for aquatic nuisance species, many invasions have been linked to other mechanisms of transfer. The threat posed to coastal ecosystems by these alternative mechanisms, however, remains largely unquantified. We assessed the potential risks of introducing marine and estuarine species associated with seven mechanisms of transfer: seafood companies, aquaculture operations, bait shops, stores that sell marine ornamental species, research and educational organizations, public aquariums, and coastal restoration projects. For each, we compiled a comprehensive database of organizations in coastal Massachusetts. We then designed and administered a survey to a subset of organizations that inquired about (1) their proximity to saltwater and methods of handling live imports; (2) the type and quantity of marine species being imported; and (3) the organization's familiarity with marine invasions. Respondents in five of the seven categories acknowledged importing nonlocal live marine species to the area. Seafood companies handled the majority of individuals but relatively few taxa. This mechanism of transfer also had the most complex trade patterns and the greatest number of operations located near saltwater. In contrast, the other transfer mechanisms each had simpler trade pathways and fewer operations but varied in the quantity and taxonomic diversity of their imports. Significantly, no single mechanism of transfer stood out as presenting a primary risk. Rather, each had characteristics or used handling practices at different points in the importation process that could facilitate introductions. To prevent future marine invasions, better reporting requirements for live species imports are needed, and best-management practices and outreach strategies specific to the transfer mechanism should be developed and implemented.
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Keywords: especies estuarinas; estuarine species; introducción de especies; mecanismos de transferencia de especies invasoras; prevención de especies invasoras; prevention of invasive species; riesgo de invasiones; risk of invasions; species introductions; transfer mechanisms of invasive species

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Massachusetts Bays National Estuary Program, 251 Causeway Street, 7th Floor, Boston, MA 02114, U.S.A., and Northeastern University, Marine Science Center, Nahant, MA 01908, U.S.A., Email: [email protected] 2: Smith College, Department of Biological Sciences and Environmental Sciences and Policy Program, 235 Sabin-Reed, Northampton, MA 01063, U.S.A. 3: Maritime Studies Program, Williams College-Mystic Seaport, 75 Greenmanville Road, P.O. Box 6000, Mystic, CT 06355, U.S.A. 4: Sea Grant College Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 292 Main Street, E38-330, Cambridge, MA 02139, U.S.A.

Publication date: February 1, 2005

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