Ports and pests: Assessing the threat of aquatic invasive species introduced by maritime shipping activity in Cuba

Charleen E. O'Brien, University of North Florida
Matthew W. Johnston, University of North Florida
David W. Kerstetter, University of North Florida


Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are biological pollutants that cause detrimental ecological, economic, and human-health effects in their introduced communities. With increasing globalization through maritime trade, ports are vulnerable to AIS exposure via commercial vessels. The Cuban Port of Mariel is poised to become a competitive transshipment hub in the Caribbean and the intent of this study was to evaluate present and potential impacts AIS pose with the likely future increase in shipping activity. We utilized previous assessment frameworks and publicly accessible information to rank AIS by level of threat. Fifteen AIS were identified in Cuba and one, the Asian green mussel Perna viridis (Linnaeus, 1758), had repeated harmful economic impacts. Five species associated with trade partners of Port Mariel were considered potentially detrimental to Cuba if introduced through shipping routes. The results presented herein identify species of concern and emphasize the importance of prioritizing AIS prevention and management within Cuba.