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The appearance of exotic species in Mediterranean waters is not new: ever since Phoenician times have marine organisms been transported on ship hulls and in ballast water across the Strait of Gibraltar and around Mediterranean ports. But in recent history human technologies have definitely accelerated this phenomenon.
Connected to the Red Sea by the sea-level Suez Canal since 1869, criss-crossed by shipping routes, encircled by harbours and mariculture farms – each providing a possible way of entry for non-native species – the Mediterranean Sea appears exceptionally vuhrerable to biological invasions.
CIESM, the Mediterranean Science Commission, naturally takes a keen interest in this process which has major impacts on marine biodiversity. Following a special session held during its 1992 Congress in Trieste, the Commission mobilised large numbers of biologists on the subject, first through expert meetings, then through the establishiment of task forces. One outcome, enriched by up-to-date maps of distribution and the best available information on the mode and date of introduction, is now in your hands. This Atlas of Exotic Fishes, the first to appear in the collection, presents an illustrated record of 91 species. The final selection emerged from a rigorous analysis, ranging from old scientific records to the most recent sightings. The quasi-totality of species is of tropical origin: roughly two-thirds from the Red Sea / Indo-Pacific domain, the others from tropical regions of the Atlantic. They cover a broad taxonomic range: 56 fish families are represented. The reader will note the drastic increase of exotic fish species over the last four decades, signaling a factual "tropicalisation" of the Mediterranean. An appreciation of their potential impact on the ecosystem, a precious annotated list of species excluded for cause from the Atlas, plus a large bibliographic section, complete this volume which should serve as a reference for specialists and non-specialists alike for years to come.