Marine Invasive Monitoring Program

The Problem

Invasive tunicate found off the coast of Cape Cod.

Aquatic invasive species cause millions of dollars in damage each year to U.S. coastal waterways. Estuaries and coasts are some of the most heavily invaded ecosystems on Earth; an estimated 298 species of marine invertebrates, 100 species of fish and 200 species of plants have been identified as invasive in North American bays and coasts alone. Marine invasive species are introduced through vectors such as maritime trade, recreational boating, and the disposal of exotic pets and species for human consumption. They out-compete native species for space and food, threatening ecological diversity. Coastal structures (e.g., docks, jetties and revetments) as well as natural hard-bottom benthic substrates (e.g., cobble beaches) provide attachment surfaces for invasive species. Research on Martha’s Vineyard indicates that invasive tunicates have colonized eelgrass beds and may be linked to tunicates on nearby coastal structures, raising concerns about the impacts of invasive species.

Cape Cod’s Coastal Resources

Cape Cod’s coastal waters are home to important fish, shellfish and wildlife resources and habitat. Non-native marine species invading Cape Cod’s waterways have become a serious threat to the native shellfish, plants and animals. On Cape Cod, there is a great need for comprehensive, systematically collected, credible regional data on the occurrence of invasive species.

Marine Invasive Monitoring Program

In 2011, the Association to Preserve Cape Cod (APCC) initiated a regional monitoring program for marine invasive species, funded by a $15,600 grant from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust. This program will identify environmental conditions likely to support aquatic invasive species and will provide crucial information to local, regional and state coastal managers and scientists to manage and protect the Commonwealth’s coastal waters and habitats.

APCC is working with project partners to provide a “First-Alert Comprehensive Marine Aquatic Invasives Monitoring Program” for Cape Cod. Our partners include MA CZM’s Marine Invasive Specialist Ms. Adrienne Pappal, Ms. Mary Carman of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Barnstable County Coastal Resources Committee, and the Massachusetts Bays Program.


In 2011, APCC staff conducted a reconnaissance survey of eight sites on the Upper Cape. All eight sites had at least four species of invasive tunicates present. APCC will repeat the survey in the fall and winter of 2012.

APCC staff member holding invasive marine tunicate pulled from Cape Cod Bay.To see the 2011 report, click here.

The Massachusetts Environmental Trust is one of the Commonwealth’s premier environmental philanthropy organizations and is mainly funded by environmental license plate revenues which have funded more than 400 grants totaling approximately $15 million. Please consider purchasing an environmental license plate to support the Trust. Environmental license plates cost $76.00, of which $40.00 is donated tax-deductible to the Trust to fund water-focused environmental education and protection programs. License plate options include Right Whale & Roseate Terns, Leaping Brook Trout or Blackstone Valley Mill.

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