Gordon Copp on the Evolving Concept of Non-Native Fish

Emerging Research Fronts Commentary, August 2011

Gordon H. Copp

Article: To be, or not to be, a non-native freshwater fish?

Authors: Copp, GH, et al.
Journal: J APPL ICHTHYOL, 21 (4): 242-262, AUG 2005
Addresses: Salmon & Freshwater Team, Ctr Environm Fisheries & Aquaculture Sci, Pakefield Rd, Lowestoft NR33 OHT, Suffolk, England.
Univ Naples, Dipartimento Zool, Naples, Italy.
RAS, Inst Zool, St Petersburg, Russia.
VITUKI, Hydrobiol Lab, Budapest, Hungary.
(Addresses have been truncated)

Gordon H. Copp talks with ScienceWatch.com and answers a few questions about this month's Emerging Research Front paper in the field of Plant & Animal Science.

SW: Why do you think your paper is highly cited?

Unlike some review papers, this article really was written using a collective approach, with each author (see group photo below) providing text from their country's point of view under each of the two main themes of the paper: "Historical patterns of fish introductions and dispersal" and "Patterns in legislation and policy regarding non-native freshwater fishes." Indeed, my responses in this interview include contributions from co-authors, given that the paper would never have been possible, nor as comprehensive, without their contributions.

The somewhat cheeky adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet certainly captures the reader's attention, and as a frontispiece for an entire volume devoted to non-native fishes, the paper represents one of the most comprehensive, multi-country reviews of the status of non-native fishes in the western world. It provides clear definitions for terms used in non-native species research, with historical insights that could serve as a reference base for alien species researchers in both Europe and North America, including range maps for the recent expansion of one of the most invasive fish families in Europe, the Ponto-Caspian gobies.

Further, although the paper focuses on freshwater fishes, the issues of non-native species introductions and legislation are universal. Indeed, this article bridges that gap between science, policy, and legislation.

SW: Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or synthesis of knowledge?

The paper is definitely a synthesis, providing an overview of scientific knowledge and legislation on species introductions as of the mid-1990s. Because the paper was constructed from contributions made by researchers in numerous European and North American countries, it is geographically relevant, and the paper is unusual in that it provides a summary of patterns in national legislation regarding non-native fish species.

SW: Would you summarize the significance of your paper in layman's terms?

Most of the co-authors of the article, together for the 2nd meeting of the NATO-funded collaborative linkage network on the use of life-history traits for predicting invasiveness in freshwater fishes. Used with permission by R. Moreno-Amich.

Most of the co-authors of the article, together for the 2nd meeting of the NATO-funded collaborative linkage network on the use of life-history traits for predicting invasiveness in freshwater fishes. Used with permission by R. Moreno-Amich.

The paper provides a synthesis of terminology used in the area of aquatic invasions, of patterns of past and current patterns of fish introductions, of how these species have been dispersed by humans or through natural means (indirectly assisted by humans), and of how governments have developed (or not developed) policy and regulatory mechanisms to implement legislation intended to deal with non-native species issues.

SW: How did you become involved in this research, and how would you describe the particular challenges, setbacks, and successes that you've encountered along the way?

Similar to many of my co-authors, I began studying non-native fishes after having worked on native species, and in my case it was more by circumstance than intention. North American fishes were amongst the fishes I encountered during my doctoral studies in France in the mid-1980s, and one of these, the pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus), became the subject of progressively intensive research from the late 1980s onwards—initially when I was at a University in Hertfordshire (England) and more particularly since joining Cefas-Lowestoft.

Probably the most important factor in this research progressing was the support received from N.A.T.O. in the form of a Collaborative Linkage Grant (CLG), which allowed us to initiate an international network, which initially had pumpkinseed as its model species to examine how life-history traits can be used in the analysis of risks posed by non-native fishes.

Although I had already formulated the basic idea for this article when the CLG proposal was being developed, the article eventually became one of the main outputs from the two-year CLG grant. Both the membership and subject scope of the CLG network have progressively expanded, leading or contributing to a large number of other research initiatives, including dedicated volumes of scientific papers in international journals, books, conferences, workshops, and international research projects on risk analysis protocols for non-native species.

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