• Open Access

U.S. drowning in unidentified fishes: Scope, implications, and regulation of live fish import


Katherine F. Smith, Brown University Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 80 Waterman St Box G-W, Providence, RI 02912, USA. Tel: 401-863-1266; fax: 401- 863-2166. E-mail: katherine_smith@brown.edu.


More than half a million shipments and over one billion live animals were imported to the United States since 2000. The majority of these were aquatic organisms, including approximately 1.1 billion fishes. Imported fishes are a major source of revenue for the pet industry and aquaculture, but can be a nuisance if they escape or are released into the wild. Over 200 fish species have been introduced to the United States following importation, many of which threaten ecosystems and infrastructure. Although fishes constitute the majority of animal imports, they receive minimal attention from regulatory agencies. Moreover, poor record keeping at ports make it impossible to assess the diversity of fishes imported, making species-specific risk analysis and prevention programs difficult. As a global leader in wildlife trade, the United States is well positioned to set standards that promote safe and responsible trade practices. To date, the nation has languished, though there are mechanisms for improvement.