Pathways of introduction of marine non-indigenous species to European seas

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-365-en
Also known as: MAR 003
Created 29 Mar 2019 Last modified 06 Dec 2019
16 min read

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Since 1949, 1 039 non-indigenous species have been introduced into European seas. The largest proportion of NIS introductions into European seas are associated with the shipping (49.1%) and corridor pathway (33 %: Suez Canal, inland canals). These are followed by unintentional movement of live organisms as contaminants (11 %) and escapees from aquaria, aquaculture and mariculture (5.1 %). Intentional releases in nature account for 1.7 % of NIS. Main vectors for transfer of NIS by vessels are ballast waters (346 species) and boat hull fouling (287). Shipping is the major pathway for introductions in all regional seas. Specifically, 45% of NIS introductions into Eastern Mediterranean and 82% in the Black Sea are associated with the shipping pathway. Corridors are the main pathway in the Eastern Mediterranean, where more than 46 % of NIS was introduced via the Suez Canal. 14.5 % of NIC was introduced via inland canals in the Baltic Sea. Transport contaminants (directly related to oyster aquaculture) are responsible for more than 30 % of introductions in the North-East Atlantic (Celtic, Iberian, Icelandic and North Seas). While NIS introductions still occur, the rate of NIS introductions decreases in the time period 2006-2017 in all regional seas. The decreasing trend can be assigned to polices effectiveness as well as to other reasons, such as decreasing pool of potential NIS species, variations in sampling effort or available expertise. In some of EU Member States, the number of new marine species introduced via human activity has already been reduced to zero. Monitoring is not considered to sufficiently cover all the hot spot areas for new introductions. Identification of the areas that are most at risk of becoming invaded, as early detection mechanism will increase chances of eradication of invasive species.

Key messages

Since 1949, 1 039 non-indigenous species have been introduced into European seas.

The largest proportion of NIS introductions into European seas are associated with the shipping (49.1%) and corridor pathway (33 %: Suez Canal, inland canals). These are followed by unintentional movement of live organisms as contaminants (11 %) and escapees from aquaria, aquaculture and mariculture (5.1 %). Intentional releases in nature account for 1.7 % of NIS.

Main vectors for transfer of NIS by vessels are ballast waters (346 species) and boat hull fouling (287).

Shipping is the major pathway for introductions in all regional seas. Specifically, 45% of NIS introductions into Eastern Mediterranean and 82% in the Black Sea are associated with the shipping pathway.

Corridors are the main pathway in the Eastern Mediterranean, where more than 46 % of NIS was introduced via the Suez Canal. 14.5 % of NIC was introduced via inland canals in the Baltic Sea.

Transport contaminants (directly related to oyster aquaculture) are responsible for more than 30 % of introductions in the North-East Atlantic (Celtic, Iberian, Icelandic and North Seas).

While NIS introductions still occur, the rate of NIS introductions decreases in the time period 2006-2017 in all regional seas. The decreasing trend can be assigned to polices effectiveness as well as to other reasons, such as decreasing pool of potential NIS species, variations in sampling effort or available expertise.

In some of EU Member States, the number of new marine species introduced via human activity has already been reduced to zero.

Monitoring is not considered to sufficiently cover all the hot spot areas for new introductions. Identification of the areas that are most at risk of becoming invaded, as early detection mechanism will increase chances of eradication of invasive species.

Are policies for controlling the pathways of marine biological invasions effective?

Mode of introduction of non-indigenous species in European Seas after 1949

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All introduction
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Transport - Stowaway
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Temporal variability in mode of introduction of NIS into Europe's Seas, since 1949

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Temporal variability in pathways of NIS introduction at marine subregion level

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Celtic Sea
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North Sea
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Baltic Sea
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Bay of Biscay and Iberian Coast
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Adriatic Sea
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Black Sea
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Western Mediterranean Sea
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Central Mediterranean Sea
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Eastern Mediterranean Sea
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