Original Paper

Biological Invasions

, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 1291-1303

First online:

Non-native aquatic animals introductions have driven disease emergence in Europe

  • Edmund J. PeelerAffiliated withCentre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science Email author 
  • , Birgit C. OidtmannAffiliated withCentre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science
  • , Paul J. MidtlyngAffiliated withNorwegian School of Veterinary Science
  • , Laurence MiossecAffiliated withIfremer, rue de l’île d’Yeu
  • , Rodolphe E. GozlanAffiliated withSchool of Applied Sciences, Bournemouth University, Dorset House, Talbot Camps

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In this paper it is argued, using examples of disease emergence in aquatic animals in Europe, that the introduction of non-native species drives disease emergence by both extending the geographic range of parasites and pathogens and facilitating host-switching. Enteric red mouth disease and infectious haematopoietic necrosis of salmonids have extended their geographic range from North America to Europe with the import of live fish (Pimephales promelas) and rainbow trout eggs, respectively. Host-switching results in disease emergence when previously unidentified commensal organisms or known pathogen switch to new naïve hosts. The most serious endemic diseases of wild aquatic animals in Europe in recent years can be traced to the introduction of non-native species. Across Europe dramatic populations declines have occurred in native crayfish (e.g. Astacus astacus), oysters (Ostrea edulis) and eels (Anguilla anguilla), all which can be attributed, in varying degrees, to diseases (crayfish plague, Bonamia ostreae and Anguillicoloides crassus, respectively) introduced with non-native species. The severe adverse effects at a population level can be attributed to the lack of immunity in the new hosts. The impact of parasites more recently introduced to Europe, Sphaerothecum destruens (the rosette agent), and Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, have yet to be fully determined. Both are generalists, with wide host ranges, and may present serious threats to native species. Aquaculture is the key driver for the introduction of non-native species. Most farming systems allow pathogen exchange between farmed and wild populations which underpins host-switching. Subsequently movements of animals between farms may result in the spread of newly emerged diseases. The introduction of non-native aquatic animals drives disease emergence, thus the ex-ante assessment of these hazards is severely limited. Generic risk mitigation measures (e.g. movement of disinfected eggs in place of live animals) and improved methods for rapid detection of new diseases are vital.


Aquaculture Transmission Control Pathways Virulence Fish