Preliminary overview of exotic and invasive marine species in the Dutch Caribbean
The marine exotic species of the Dutch Caribbean are less well-known than its terrestrial exotics. So far, only 27 known or suspected marine exotic species, some of which are also invasive are documented for one or more islands of the Dutch Caribbean. Four of these were documented only once or were only present for a certain period of time and are no longer present. Six of the species are marine epidemic diseases. As very little is known about these diseases, they might actually be native, but based on the literature and their ecological signature we regard them as special cases of invasive species.
In addition to these documented species, 76 other exotic species that have already been observed elsewhere in the Caribbean may already be present or can be expected to arrive in the Dutch Caribbean in the near future. The marine communities of the Dutch Caribbean have suffered major changes based on a handful of marine exotic and/or invasive species, particularly in the special case of (opportunistic) pathogens. In certain cases experience shows that after decades, the affected systems/species may show slow signs of recovery from initial impacts (e.g. the green turtle fibropapillomas), while in other cases the impact may be long-lasting and recovery doubtful (e.g. sea fan mortality).
Compared to terrestrial exotic species, eradication and control have been proven difficult or impossible for marine exotics. Therefore, management practices aimed at controlling unwanted species introductions should focus on preventing the arrival of such species by ships-- that transport exotics in their ballast water or as fouling communities on their hulls-- and (accidental) introductions from aquaculture or the aquarium trade. Busy harbors can be expected to be the areas where most marine exotics likely establish first.
Because of dispersal of marine exotics is facilitated by ocean currents, local approaches to prevent their arrival or reduce their numbers will be less effective compared to similar efforts for terrestrial species. In the case of marine exotics and invasives, it is paramount that prevention, control and management efforts should be regionally integrated. We conclude this report by listing a number recommendations on how to develop effective management approaches with which to address the impacts and risks associated with marine exotic species.
This research is part of the Wageningen University BO research program (BO-11-011.05-004) and has been financed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation (EL&I) under project number 4308202004.