- Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM)
- Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Media Contact for Scientists to Search for New Species Invading the New England Coast
Danielle Burney, Deputy Communications Director
BOSTON — A team of scientific experts will visit marinas from Massachusetts to Maine this week to observe, identify, and record marine organisms as part of a rapid assessment of introduced and potentially invasive species. Species introduced to an area through human activity have the capacity to become invasive when their spread harms the environment, economy, or public health. The study is coordinated by the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) within the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA).
The goal of the Rapid Assessment Survey is to detect new marine species and document regional patterns of previously recorded invasives. This year’s effort marks the seventh time the survey has been conducted since 2000. Previous surveys have identified new marine species in Massachusetts waters, such as the Rock Shrimp, Palaemon elegans. Range shifts have also been documented, including the northward expansion of the red seaweed, Grateloupia turuturu.
“This impressive long-term effort documents the animal and plant species along our coast and identifies new species finding their way to these waters,” said Energy & Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper. “This information not only helps us manage impacts of marine invasive species but also gives insight into the potential effects of climate change on species distribution.”
“The Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management is proud to coordinate the many scientists who volunteer their time every five years to continue this important survey work,” said CZM Director Lisa Berry Engler. “We thank these experts for literally rolling up their sleeves and diving in to monitor marine species in such a proactive and meaningful way.”
Scientists, including a team of divers, spend an hour at each site examining as many surfaces under the water as possible, searching for native and invasive marine species. Samples are collected and brought back to a laboratory for accurate identification. The process of identifying a new species introduction is lengthy, often taking months of careful examination and consultation with other scientists for a definitive answer.
In addition to CZM, other organizations providing funds and support for this week’s survey include the Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Massachusetts Bays National Estuary Partnership (MassBays), Northeast Aquatic Nuisance Species Panel, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The team will be hosted at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
The scientific team includes experts from EPA Region 1, Framingham State University, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, Maine Department of Marine Resources, MassBays, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, CZM, MIT Sea Grant, North Carolina Museum of Natural History, Royal British Columbia Museum, Southern Maine Community College, Suffolk University, University of California Santa Barbara, University of New Hampshire, University of Maine Farmington, University of Rhode Island, Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, Wheaton College, and Williams College.
Animals, plants, and algae become invasive when they are introduced by human activity to an area outside of their native range and then spread, impacting human health, economy, and/or the ecosystem by crowding out or preying on the native species that naturally occur in the area. Marine invasive species can be introduced by humans in a variety of ways, including on ship hulls or in ship ballast water, by accidental releases from fishing and aquaculture, or by intentional introductions for food sources. Marine invasive animals, plants, and algae—like the green crab Carcinus maenas and the green fleece seaweed Codium fragile ssp. fragile—have changed the coastal ecology of Massachusetts and can generate significant economic impacts, particularly in the fishing industry. Increased water temperatures due to climate change can alter native species distribution and enhance the spread of non-native species, particularly if winter water temperatures rise within the acceptable ecological range limits to allow for survival. For details on these issues, see the CZM Marine Invasive Species Program website. The Rapid Assessment Surveys of Marine Invasive Species page also provides links to survey photos and previous survey results.
The Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) is the lead policy and planning agency on coastal and ocean issues within the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Through planning, technical and grant assistance, and public information programs, CZM seeks to balance the impacts of human activity with the protection of coastal and marine resources. The agency’s work includes helping coastal communities address the challenges of storms, sea level rise, and other effects of climate change; working with state, regional, and federal partners to balance current and new uses of ocean waters while protecting ocean habitats and promoting sustainable economic development; and partnering with communities and other organizations to protect and restore coastal water quality and habitats.