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Managing Live Bait Trade to Reduce Invasive Species

Maryland Sea Grant

The introduction of aquatic invasive species to Chesapeake Bay, transported through the ballast water of cargo ships or by live animal and plant trades, can bring ecologically harmful consequences. To safeguard local ecosystems, Maryland Sea Grant supports programs that seek to prevent the establishment of new invasive species in the region.
In 2009, Maryland Sea Grant played a key role in the creation of a template for rapid response planning for aquatic invasive species in the Mid-Atlantic region. To provide an example of how to use the template, Maryland Sea Grant completed a rapid response plan for Maryland. This template, developed in collaboration with the Mid-Atlantic Panel on Aquatic Invasive Species, outlines steps that decision-makers can take once a new and potentially harmful non-native species has been identified in the waters of their state. The template is available for download from our website and has been used by several states in the country.
More recently, Maryland Sea Grant took a leadership role in a comprehensive research and outreach effort aimed at slowing the spread of invasive species through the marine bloodworm trade. Anglers across the Mid-Atlantic use these worms, which are shipped live from Maine, as bait, and the seaweed packaging in which the worms are packed can carry invasive “hitchhiker” species like the European green crab. The research-and-outreach effort was conducted by a partnership including the University of Maryland at College Park, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and Sea Grant programs in Delaware, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
In 2014, the partners developed a research-based messaging campaign and intervention strategy to encourage anglers to discard the bait packaging properly in the trash rather than dropping it in local waterways. To develop and refine this messaging campaign, Maryland Sea Grant Extension consulted extensively with bait shop owners in the Mid-Atlantic region. Drawing on this feedback, the project team produced a series of educational materials bearing the slogan “Protect Our Fisheries — Trash Unused Worms and Packaging.” Materials included brochures, stickers, and magnets, which provided the URL for the project’s website. These products were distributed to thousands of anglers through 13 bait shops and two fishing tournaments in the region. In 2015,  the research team will analyze the results of follow-up interviews with bait shop owners and anglers to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention.

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