Fish invasions follow Panama and Suez canal expansions

Fish invasions follow Panama and Suez canal expansions
Panama Canal locks are periodically emptied to perform routine maintenance. Credit: Gustavo Castellanos, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

World maritime trade grows each year, aided by canal waterways that connect oceans and reduce shipping time, energy consumption and carbon emissions. Following recent expansions of the Panama and Suez canals, non-native fish species are invading new habitats according to a new report in Nature Ecology and Evolution by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama and the Leibnitz Center for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) in Germany.

“We’re seeing a shift from predominantly freshwater fishes to marine fishes in the Panama Canal (Lake Gatun) in a short period of time,” said Mark Torchin, STRI marine ecologist. “The concern is that if fish invasions continue there is a good chance of some of those fishes moving into the other ocean, with unknown environmental consequences.”

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