- Biological invasions - Pacific Northwest,
- Ornamental fish trade,
The aquarium trade moves thousands of species around the globe, and unwanted organisms may be released into freshwaters, with adverse ecological and economic effects. We report on the first investigation of the ornamental pet trade as an invasion pathway in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, where a moderate climate and a large human population present ample opportunities for the introduction and establishment of aquarium trade species. Results from a regional survey of pet stores found that the number of fish (n=400) and plant (n=124) species currently in the aquarium trade is vast. Pet stores import thousands of fish every month, the majority of which (58%) are considered to pose an ecological threat to native ecosystems. Our propagule pressure model suggests that approximately 2,500 fish (maximum 21,000 individuals) are likely released annually to the Puget Sound region by aquarists, and that water temperatures in many parts of Washington are suitable for establishment of populations. In conclusion, the aquarium trade may be a significant source of past and future invasions in the Pacific Northwest, and we recommend enhanced public education programs, greater regulation of the aquarium industry, and improved legislation of nonnative species in the ornamental trade.