An assessment of a bait industry and angler behavior as a vector of invasive species
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- Kilian, J.V., Klauda, R.J., Widman, S. et al. Biol Invasions (2012) 14: 1469. doi:10.1007/s10530-012-0173-5
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The use of live bait by anglers is an important vector of both aquatic and terrestrial invasive species. Bait-bucket introductions of invasive crayfishes, fishes, earthworms, pathogens, and other organisms have reduced biodiversity and altered ecosystem function and structure throughout the United States, including the Mid-Atlantic region. In 2008, we conducted a telephone survey of bait shops and a mail survey of anglers to obtain information on the trade and use of bait in Maryland, a US state with many introduced bait species. Our telephone survey of bait shops confirmed that this industry is a source of non-native and invasive species in Maryland. Our survey documented at least six non-native bait species for sale in the state. With the exception of a few locally collected bait species, bait sold in Maryland originated from sources outside of the state, and in some cases, outside the Mid-Atlantic region. Results of our angler survey indicated that 64% of Maryland freshwater anglers, both resident and non-resident, used live bait and that the release of unused live bait was quite common and occurred statewide. The release of unused bait by anglers varied with bait type. Anglers more readily released aquatic than terrestrial baits. For example, 65 and 69% of Maryland anglers using fishes and crayfishes released their unused bait; whereas only 18 and 10% of anglers released their unused earthworms and grubs-mealworms-maggots, respectively. Our surveys indicated that any non-native, potentially invasive species imported into the state via the bait industry is likely to be released by anglers into Maryland’s aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Many of these species have the potential to become established in the state. These results illustrate the need for greater oversight of the bait industry, development of consistent regulations on bait use, and a region-wide education campaign aimed at changing anglers’ behavior regarding bait use and its disposal. We recommend specific management actions that, if implemented, would greatly reduce further bait-bucket introductions and provide protection against invasive bait species in Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic region.