center to combat invader marine species
WASHINGTON -- From snakehead fish in Maryland to zebra
mussels in the Great Lakes, invasions by foreign species
are a growing problem in the United States, scientists
To better understand and control the invaders, the government
is opening a new center to study these species, and international
researchers are working together to share data.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said
Tuesday it is establishing a new National Center for Research
on Aquatic Invasive Species in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
"Each year, aquatic invasive species wreak billions
of dollars in damages on the U.S. economy, much of which
is passed on to the consumer," said NOAA Administrator
Conrad C. Lautenbacher.
Coastal waters worldwide are increasingly becoming infested
with foreign species that proliferate because they lack
predators that kept them in check at home. Often the newcomers
are discharged in the ballast water of ships.
The new NOAA center will coordinate research efforts
on invasive species and will work with other agencies.
Meanwhile, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
in Edgewater, Maryland, announced it has formed a partnership
with CSIRO Marine Research in Hobart, Australia. The two
groups will combine their databases of invasive species,
creating a global inventory to help scientists and managers
cope with the problem.
The two database systems provide extensive information
about hundreds of marine species, said Greg Ruiz, director
of the Smithsonian's Marine Invasions Research Laboratory.
Among the invasive species causing problems:
The veined rapa whelk, a mollusk that has hurt shellfisheries
in the Mediterranean and Black Sea and may threaten New
England shellfisheries, as its range expands from a recent
foothold in the Chesapeake Bay.
The European green crab, which has established along
both U.S. coasts and is a voracious shellfish predator,
impacting both commercial and noncommercial species.
An invasion of tiny jellyfish has killed hundreds of
thousands of salmon at fish farms off Scotland.
The northern snakehead fish that prompted Maryland officials
to poison three ponds before it could spread.
By combining data from the Smithsonian and CSIRO -- Commonwealth
Scientific and Industrial Research Organization -- researchers
can learn more about species that have already threatened
their waters and others that may pose potential threats.
The Smithsonian database, called NEMESIS -- National
Exotic Marine and Estuarine Information System -- and
its Australian counterpart summarize the invasion history,
distribution, biology, ecology and impacts of invaders.
Ruiz said the Smithsonian wants to add other partners
to the effort including museums, government agencies,
universities and other organizations that maintain databases
on non-native species.
NOAA's center for research on aquatic invasive species
will be located at the agency's Great Lakes Environmental
Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, which has been studying
invasive species for 14 years.
Stephen Brandt, research lab director, said the center
will establish regional coordinators in six major aquatic
coastal regions around the country.
Lautenbacher said Canada's Department of Fisheries and
Oceans has indicated it plans to develop a similar Canadian
Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center and expressed
the desire to have the two centers work together.