Researchers attribute deluge of alien fish to ‘globalised’ shipping routes

Researchers behind the Spot the Alien Fish campaign who have long observed an influx of non-indigenous fish in Maltese and Mediterranean waters, have held several activities, including the shipping industry, responsible for the growing phenomenon

The Por’s goat fish
The Por’s goat fish

Researchers behind the Spot the Alien Fish campaign who have long observed an influx of non-indigenous fish in Maltese and Mediterranean waters, have held several activities, including the shipping industry, responsible for the growing phenomenon.

In a statement announcing the discovery of three new alien fish species in Maltese and Sicilian waters, researchers pointed to shipping routes, maritime maintenance and rise in popularity of tropical fish as contributors to the recent surge of exotic fish.

“The arrival and establishment of new species is an unrelenting phenomenon which is picking up pace even further due to further globalisation in shipping routes, offshore platforms such as oil rigs which enter our ports for maintenance work, and an upsurge in the tropical aquarium trade,” the statement read.

The Guinea angelfish
The Guinea angelfish

The researchers outlined the Por’s goat fish (Upeneuspori), the Guinea angelfish (Holacanthus africanus) and the Azure damselfish (Chrysipterahemicyanea) as the three new fish species recorded in the area over the past few weeks. They explained that the Guinea angelfish entered the Mediterranean from the Atlantic ocean, while the other two species entered through the Suez Canal.

In the past few years, the team of scientists behind the Spot the Alien Fish campaign have recorded in Maltese waters the Australian spotted jellyfish, the nomadic jellyfish, the African moonfish, the African hind, the blue swimmer crab, the Indo-Pacific flatworm, the fang-tooth moray eel, the Sergeant-major, the deep-sea rockfish, the silver-cheeked toadfish and the redcoat. Information on these species can be gleaned online.

The Azure damselfish
The Azure damselfish

The Spot the Alien Fish campaign, jointly led by the University of Malta, the International Ocean Institute (IOI), the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture and ISPRA of Italy in collaboration with the Environment and Resources Authorit and coordinated by Alan Deidun from the Department of Geosciences of the University of Malta, is a citizen science campaign launched in December 2016 which allows the public to submit records of alien fish through a tailor-made website, social media page or through email or mobile phone on 79604109.

A user-friendly splash-proof, A3 poster featuring 36 non-indigenous fish species has been printed and widely disseminated to all local diving clubs, fishing clubs and interested members of the public.

The campaign regularly organises public talks on alien species, the next such talk is being jointly organised by the Professional Diving Schools Association of Malta and by Federation of Underwater Activities Malta on Friday, 30 June at 7pm, at the ATLAM club premises in Bahar ic-Caghaq.

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