, Volume 623, Issue 1, pp 203-212
Date: 10 Dec 2008

Detecting the degree of establishment of a non-indigenous species in coastal ecosystems: sea bass Dicentrarchus labrax escapes from sea cages in Canary Islands (Northeastern Central Atlantic)

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This article gives an insight into the degree of establishment and potential impact of escaped sea bass in shallow coastal habitats of Tenerife. We studied spatial distribution, abundance, size frequency and use of habitat by visual census. Stomach contents and gonadal maturity of escaped sea bass were analysed. Results show that abundance of escaped sea bass is related to distance from to the nearest fish farm and to the habitat complexity. The most frequent size found in the wild corresponds to that of first marketing size. Stomach contents indicate that escaped sea bass were able to exploit natural resources, especially fish. The presence of a female with mature gonads indicates that conditions for successful maturation exist. However, further studies are needed to ensure whether or not escaped sea bass are able to establish self-reproducing populations. Thus, we can conclude that sea bass seem to be already established in shallow coastal habitats of Tenerife, but the population may depend mainly on escapees. As a result of being an opportunistic piscivore, sea bass could be predating on and competing with other native species that are economically important. These results are useful to develop a risk assessment based on quantitative data to predict negative effects. Moreover, management policies such as communication of massive escapes or mitigation measures are needed to prevent future impact on the marine environment.

Handling editor: P. Viaroli