Tackling aquatic invasions: risks and opportunitiesfor the aquarium fish industry

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Biological Invasions





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The aquarium trade is an important and rapidly growing vector for introduced species in the United States. We examined this vector by surveying pet stores in the San Francisco Bay–Delta region to compile a list of aquarium fish species commonly stocked. We identified which of these species might be able to survive in the Bay–Delta, and investigated store representatives’ knowledge and attitudes about biological invasions. A restrictive analysis using conservative estimates of fish temperature tolerances and environmental conditions found that the local aquarium trade includes 5 fish species that can survive in a temperate system such as the Bay–Delta. Under more inclusive parameters, up to 27 fish species met the criteria for survival in the Bay–Delta. We further explored these results by comparing potential invader incidence between different types of stores. In the more restrictive analysis, three national retail chains stocked significantly more potentially invasive species than independent aquarium stores, but there was no difference in the more inclusive analysis. A significantly higher percentage of fish taxa were easily identifiable and well-labeled in chain stores than in independent stores. Most aquarium store representatives indicated willingness to take action to reduce the threat of trade-related introductions, although chain store employees were more willing to assign responsibility for reducing this threat to the aquarium industry than were independent store employees. Management efforts for this vector should focus on (a) improving labeling and identification of fish species in stores, (b) expanding the often spotty data on fish physiological tolerances, especially for saltwater species, (c) educating customers and store employees about the risks posed by pet release, and (d) providing better options for responsible disposal of unwanted fish.

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