non-indigenous species in reef systems

Les Kaufman lesk at
Mon Mar 8 14:38:12 EST 1999

Phil, there are some invasive species problems in coral reef systems that
are potentially very serious.

1.  The introduction of exotic Euchema and other algae for the carageenan
and agar industries.  These have significantly altered the ecology of
Kaneohoe Bay, for example.  HIMB folks have data.  They are also working on
Dictyosphaeria cavernosa but I presume that this was native, and just took
off with eutrophication.

2.  Shrimp aquaculture is resulting in the worldwide spread of both decapod
pathogens and non-indigenous penaeids.  Whether this is a coral reef issue
or not is still an open question.  I have a student doing a senior thesis
on the potential impacts of shrimp aquaculture in Oman, and she is in touch
with various people looking at these issues.  Dana Meadows at Dartmouth is
one of them, and a good contact.

3.  Fish introductions in coral reef systems are not unknown, but their
effects are not well known.  The classic example is the introduction of
Cephalophalis argus (and three other species) to Hawaiian waters.  Jack
Randall is the expert on that.  C. argus is now an abundant fish in some
places, and you have to suspect that the introduction of a small grouper to
a reef system that formerly lacked any such creature has to have some
interesting effects.

4.  The escape of a domesticated form of Caulerpa taxifolia in the
Mediterannean has serious implications for coral reef habitats as well.
Jim Carlton knows who to get in touch with about this, I think.

5.  Aquarists or aquarium fish collectors have tried to introduce valuable
Indo-Pacific species to Kaneohoe Bay.  For example, several lemonpeel
angelfish were known in the bay for a while, though I don't think they
established and I have not seen them around.  Talk to Chris Brown at HIMB
about the aquarium trade.

6.  Aquaculture of marine aquarium fishes is on the edge of becoming a
profitable, transportable business.  Clownfishes are being reared in large
numbers in the Caribbean, for example.  It is unlikely that they in
particular would naturalize in the Caribbean, but not impossible.  As
mariculture spreads, there are serious issues we need to consider...all of
the usual ones.

Phil, these are off the top of my head.  For what it's worth, I ended my
paper at the recent international meeting on marine bioinvasions (my paper
was about Lake Victoria), with slides of Euchema and C. argus in Hawaii.  I
draw analogies between Euchema and water hyacinth, and C. argus and Lates.
Those in the audience who noticed said that they really enjoyed the Lake
Vic data but thought the coda was a reach.  I disaggree.  I think that what
we learned from Lake Vic should be kept in mind in nearshore marine
tropical waters, and that this will become a real issue as mariculture
becomes more prevalent.

Hope that is of use.

Les Kaufman
Boston University Marine Program
Department of Biology
Boston University
5 Cummington Street
Boston, MA 02215

e-mail: lesk at
phone: 617-353-5560
fax:   617-353-6340

 Ex Africa semper aliquid novi.
"There is always something new out of Africa."
 - Pliny the Elder

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