Marine Pathways Project (2012 - 2015)

Project Summary

The marine pathways project wasundertaken by organisations within the UK and Ireland and contributing to the delivery of the Non-Indigenous species descriptor of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). The overall aim of the project was to protect marine biodiversity in the UK and Ireland by managing key pathways by which marine invasive non native species (NNS) are introduced and spread. The project ended in April 2015.

Commercial shipping, recreational boating, aquaculture and natural dispersal have been highlighted as potential pathways by which invasive NNS may be introduced. The project therefore aimed to understand the risk associated with each of these pathways. In addition, the project investigated biosecurity measures which may be implemented to reduce the risk of introduction and spread of NNS, as well as conducting research into eradication, control and management strategies which will play a role in elimination or reducing spread of NNS in the event of an introduction.

Project Outputs

Project reports and other documents produced by the Marine Pathways Project are available here: Reports, documents and links

Project Background

Marine NNS are an increasing problem and can have huge environmental, economic and social impacts. Environmental impacts include loss of biodiversity through displacement of native species, loss of genetic diversity and introduction of pathogens into native populations. Social impacts are the consequence of disruption to industries such as recreational boating, commercial shipping and aquaculture. It is thought that the cost of marine NNS to marine industries in Great Britain alone is in the region of £40 million per year.

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) is an EU directive, formally adopted in July 2008, which aims to manage and protect the marine environment across Europe. The central goal of the directive is to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) in marine waters of EU Member States by 2020. The framework promotes an ecosystem based approach to manage the sustainable use of marine waters for both economic and social benefit. The MSFD is compiled of a list of descriptors on which GES will be assessed. In accordance with the understanding that NNS may have negative impacts on the marine environment and the need for their management and control, one of the eleven MSFD descriptors refers to NNS, stating:

“Non- indigenous species introduced by human activities are at levels that do not adversely alter the ecosystems”.

For more information on specific NNS, their identification, impact and distribution please see the GB Non-Native Species Secretariat species information pages.
Activities carried out through the Marine Pathways Project including workshops, control experiments for invasive marine species, and expert analysis

Project Aims and Objectives

The aim of the marine pathways project was to:

‘protect marine biodiversity in the UK and Ireland by managing key pathways by which marine invasive non-native species are introduced and spread.’

The key pathways include commercial shipping, recreational boating, aquaculture and natural dispersal. For example, marine NNS can be introduced and spread via ships ballast water, hull fouling and aquaculture stock imports and movements.

The main objectives of the marine pathways project were:

  • Development of protocols and methodology for the detection of NNS both inshore and offshore
  • Identification of locations at high risk of the introduction of NNS to facilitate risk based monitoring and management
  • Raising awareness of marine NNS with stakeholders
  • Work with stakeholders developing codes of practice to reduce the risk of introduction and spread
  • Research strategies for the control and eradication of marine NNS

The project supported the implementation of International and European policy drivers including:

  • Marine Strategy Framework Directive descriptor 2 (Non Indigenous Species)
  • Water Framework Directive Good Ecological Status
  • Biodiversity 2020 Target 5 Invasive Alien Species

Organisations involved

Key organisations involved in the management and implementation of the project included: Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Irish Sea Fisheries Board, Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Government, Welsh Government.

Work was also carried out by leading universities and research centres including the Marine Biological Association, The University of Bangor, Firth of Clyde Forum, The Scottish Association for Marine Science, Wales Wildlife Trust and Cornwall Wildlife Trust.

Contact us

If you have any questions about the project please contact 

Project Conference

The Marine Pathways Project Conference was held on 25th February 2015 at the Mercure House Hotel in Cardiff. The aim of the conference was to bring together those involved in the delivery and organisation of the project and stakeholders and industry representatives for which marine non-native species are of importance. The day focused on three key areas: biosecurity, monitoring and management and involved both presentations and group discussions. The day was a huge success and the project team would like to thank everyone for attending and sharing their expertise and experience.

Please find links below to conference presentations and discussion session outputs. If you would like any more information please contact Maggie Hatton-Ellis at NRW ( ).

Marine Pathways Project Conference programme (PDF)


Introduction (PDF)
Policy landscape for NNS in the UK (PDF)
Marine NNS risk reduction guidance (PDF)
Predicting and monitoring introduction of NNS (PDF)
In-shore and off-shore UK monitoring trials (PDF)
Control and management of marine INNS "Dee Chinese mitten crab project" (PDF) and "Control and management of Didemnum vexillum in Ireland" (PDF)
Gaps and next step (PDF)

Conference discussion session questions (PDF)
Conference discussion session notes (PDF)

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