2017 Guest blog: The Marine Pathways Group

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is an expression often applied to non-native species- where stopping their introduction is far more effective and less costly than trying to remove them afterwards. This is particularly true in the marine environment where the removal of a species once it has become established, especially in such an extensive and complex ecosystem, is considered almost impossible.

Since 2012 the Marine Pathways Group has been working on ways in which marine non-native species can be prevented from entering UK and Irish waters. The group consists of member from across Scottish, Welsh, Irish and English governments; encouraging harmonised, collaborative and synergistic working.

Much of the work has been aimed at the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, and has included the identification of locations most at risk from the introduction of marine non-native species, the development and implementation of monitoring programmes, the provision of guidance on bio-security to a broad range of sectors and awareness raising.

The group has recently led on assessing the number of non-native species being introduced into marine waters for both the UK and OSPAR (a regional seas convention covering the north east Atlantic). In addition to looking at means of preventing introduction, the group has also been involved with research into methods of removing those marine non-native species already established. This has included methods of managing the carpet sea squirt (Didemnum vexillum) in aquaculture sites and controlling Chinese mitten crabs (Eriocheir sinensis) in the River Dee.

Despite all the hard work of the group, there is still much to do. Going into the future the group will look at improving our monitoring efforts, especially at key locations where introductions are likely to occur such as ports and marinas, potentially using eDNA methods. We will also continue to improve on our bio-security both in relation to introduction, but also spread as well. For more information please look at our webpages.

Article written by: Drs. Paul Stebbing and Hannah Tidbury

Members of the Marine Pathways Group:

  • Cefas (Chair)
  • Natural England
  • Animal and Plant Health Agency
  • Defra, Natural Resource Wales
  • Environment Agency
  • Welsh Government
  • Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs Northern Ireland
  • Department of Environment Community and Local Government Ireland
  • National Biodiversity Centre Ireland
  • Department of Environment
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Isle of Man
  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Scottish Government
  • Marine Management Organisation
  • GB Non-Native Species Secretariat
  • Irish Sea Fisheries Board.

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