Effectiveness of the California State Ban on the Sale of Caulerpa Species in Aquarium Retail Stores in Southern California
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The invasion of the aquarium strain of the green alga Caulerpa taxifolia and subsequent alteration of community structure in the Mediterranean Sea raised awareness of the potential for non-native seaweeds to impact coastal communities. An introduction of C. taxifolia in southern California in 2000, presumably from the release of aquarium specimens, cost ~$7 million for eradication efforts. Besides C. taxifolia, other Caulerpa species being sold for aquarium use also may have the potential to invade southern Californian and U.S. waters. Surveys of the availability of Caulerpa species in southern California aquarium retail stores in 2000–2001 revealed that 26 of 50 stores sold at least one Caulerpa species (52 %) with seven stores selling C. taxifolia. In late 2001, California imposed a ban on the importation, sale, or possession of nine Caulerpa species; the City of San Diego expanded these regulations to include the entire genus. To determine the effectiveness of the California ban, we resurveyed Caulerpa availability at 43 of the 50 previously sampled retail stores in southern California in ~2006, ~4 years following the ban. Of the 43 stores, 23 sold Caulerpa (53 %) with four stores selling C. taxifolia. A χ2 test of frequency of availability before and after the California ban suggests that the ban has not been effective and that the aquarium trade continues to represent a potential vector for distributing Caulerpa specimens, including C. taxifolia. This study underscores the need for increased enforcement and outreach programs to increase awareness among the aquarium industry and aquarium hobbyists.