For Immediate Release - August 05, 2013

Scientists Search for Non-Native Species That Pose Threats to Commonwealth’s Marine Environment

BOSTON – August 5, 2013 – Today, scientists will begin to scour docks and piers along the Massachusetts coast, from Cape Ann to Cape Cod, searching for and identifying potential invasive species. While some of these introduced marine species will never become established populations, others pose threats to the Commonwealth’s environment, economy and public health.

The inspection of permanent floating docks and rocky shores in Salem, Boston, Marshfield, Sandwich, Bourne, Woods Hole, New Bedford and Westport is coordinated by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sea Grant, a research program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The four-day Massachusetts sweep is part of a six-day regional effort to collect, identify and catalog marine organisms in coastal waters from Maine’s mid-coast to Cape Cod and Rhode Island. Goals of the study include developing a baseline inventory of marine species, identifying species recently introduced to local ecosystems and helping natural resource managers prevent and control future invasions of non-native species. Surveys in 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2010 revealed over 30 introduced marine organisms, several of which were identified for the first time in New England coastal waters.

“Invasive species threaten our native marine ecosystems and present unique challenges for managers of bays, beaches and estuaries; the very places that define the special character of the Massachusetts coast,” said EEA Secretary Richard Sullivan. “This week’s survey will give us the up-to-date information we need to safeguard natural resources along the Commonwealth’s shores.”

“Factors such as global trade and shipping and increasing temperatures associated with climate change have recently accelerated the spread of new and non-native species into local waters,” said CZM Director Bruce Carlisle. “This rapid assessment survey helps us track changes in the marine ecosystem and build the scientific knowledge needed for the development of effective prevention practices and control methods. I’d like to thank the researchers for their time and expertise under this demanding survey schedule.”

In New England coastal waters, the European green crab and Asian shore crab prey on commercially valuable shellfish, while other invasive species damage piers and pilings, clog pipes and cause public health problems through disease and pathogens. Of particular concern is the recent discovery of the fast-spreading European shrimp Palaemon elegans along the New England Coast, first discovered in North America in Salem during the 2010 survey. The shrimp can grow to lengths of three inches or more and may prey on and compete with native species.

The following is the research schedule for the rapid assessment survey:

  • August 5 - Hawthorne Cove Marina in Salem
  • August 6 - Rowes Wharf in Boston, Green Harbor Marina in Marshfield
  • August 8 - Sandwich Marina in Sandwich, Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Bourne, Coast Guard Station in Woods Hole
  • August 9 - Pope’s Island Marina in New Bedford and F.L. Tripp and Son’s in Westport

In addition to CZM and the MIT Sea Grant, other organizations participating and providing funds and support for this week’s survey include the Massachusetts Bays Program, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Northeast Aquatic Nuisance Species Panel, Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership, Narragansett Bay Estuary Program and Rhode Island Bays, Rivers, and Watersheds Coordination Team. Scientists participating in the project include two CZM staff as well as researchers hailing from the Netherlands, Brazil and the United States.