The enlargement of the Suez Canal - erythraean introductions and management challenges.
The Suez Canal is the main pathway of introduction of non-indigenous species into the Mediterranean Sea. The successive enlargements of the Suez Canal have raised concern over increasing propagule pressure resulting in continuous introductions of new non-indigenous species and associated degradation and loss of native populations, habitats and ecosystem services. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) through its Barcelona Convention has pledged to protect the biological resources, habitats and ecosystem services of the Mediterranean Sea, and have committed to spatial protection measures. Yet, UNEP shied away from discussing, let alone managing, the influx of tropical non-indigenous biota introduced through the Suez Canal. Surveys, funded by the Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas (UNEP RAC/SPA), established by the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention, revealed that marine protected areas in the eastern Mediterranean have been inundated by these non-indigenous species, and may in fact function as hubs for their secondary dispersal. We call attention to the failure of an environmental policy that left the entire Mediterranean Sea prone to colonization by highly impacting non-indigenous species, including poisonous and venomous ones. Scientific research has been documenting this bioinvasion for over a century, yet beyond the ambit of marine scientists there is a lack of awareness of the scale of Mediterranean-wide consequences and scant appetite to enact the necessary environmental policies.