Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Acanthogobius flavimanus



Acanthogobius flavimanus


  • Last modified
  • 16 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Acanthogobius flavimanus
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Actinopterygii
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • A. flavimanus can withstand abrupt changes between fresh and salt water and can survive temperatures greater than 28°C, therefore occupying a broad habitat range from marine to freshwater. It is an op...

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Acanthogobius flavimanus (yellowfin goby); adult, captive specimen. Sumida Aquarium, Japan. August 2014
CaptionAcanthogobius flavimanus (yellowfin goby); adult, captive specimen. Sumida Aquarium, Japan. August 2014
Copyright©Daiju Azuma/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 2.5
Acanthogobius flavimanus (yellowfin goby); adult, captive specimen. Sumida Aquarium, Japan. August 2014
AdultAcanthogobius flavimanus (yellowfin goby); adult, captive specimen. Sumida Aquarium, Japan. August 2014©Daiju Azuma/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 2.5
Acanthogobius flavimanus (yellowfin goby); adult.
CaptionAcanthogobius flavimanus (yellowfin goby); adult.
CopyrightPublic Domain - Released by ふうけ
Acanthogobius flavimanus (yellowfin goby); adult.
AdultAcanthogobius flavimanus (yellowfin goby); adult.Public Domain - Released by ふうけ


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Acanthogobius flavimanus Temminck and Schlegel, 1845

Other Scientific Names

  • Aboma snyderi Jordan and Fowler, 1902
  • Acanthogobius flavimannus Temminck and Schlegel, 1845
  • Gobius flavimanus Temminck and Schlegel, 1845
  • Gobius flavimanus Temminck and Schlegel, 1845
  • Gobius stigmothonus Richardson, 1845

International Common Names

  • English: Japanese river goby; yellow fin goby; yellowfin goby
  • Spanish: gobio extranjero
  • Russian: yaponskii rechnoi bychok; zheltoperyi bychok

Local Common Names

  • Former USSR: yaponskii rechnoi bychok
  • Japan: mahaze
  • Mexico: yellow fin gobi
  • Russian Federation: zheltoperyi bychok
  • USA: yellow fin gobi
  • Vietnam: cá bong; cá bong hoa; oriental goby; spotted goby

Summary of Invasiveness

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A. flavimanus can withstand abrupt changes between fresh and salt water and can survive temperatures greater than 28°C, therefore occupying a broad habitat range from marine to freshwater. It is an opportunistic feeder and has successfully shifted its diet from a native range to an invaded range. It negatively interacts with native and endangered species competing for food and resources (Meng et al., 1994: Lafferty et al., 1999; Nico and Fuller, 2008). It is not in IUCN Red List (Froese and Pauly, 2008).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Actinopterygii
  •                     Order: Perciformes
  •                         Suborder: Gobioidei
  •                             Family: Gobiidae
  •                                 Genus: Acanthogobius
  •                                     Species: Acanthogobius flavimanus

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Acanthogobius flavimanus is commonly known in English as the yellowfin goby.


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A. flavimanus is a gobiid fish growing to 25-30 cm long. The average longevity of A. flavimanus is 3 years, but there have been examples of older specimens (Moyle, 2002). It has a slender pale-brownish body with a series of dark saddles and spots (Nico and Fuller, 2008). The mid-sides and dorsal fin also have brown patches or spots. Head is of moderate size (28-30% SL), triangular in cross section; interorbital space is narrow and less than eye diameter; mouth oblique, rear end of the jaws just in front and below the middle of eye (NIMPIS, 2002). The arrangement of pores on the head is a key characteristic in identifying this species, with one adjacent to posterior nostril each side, median between rear part of eye, one behind eye, three above each operculum, and two on each preoperculum (NIMPIS, 2002).

Juvenile fish have pale-yellow ventral and anal fins, whereas all ages possess yellow ventral fins. There are two dorsal fins, first originating above ventral fin insertions and the second originating just behind the first; first dorsal-fin margin rounded; anal fin origin below and behind second dorsal-fin origin; caudal and pectoral fins with rounded margins; ventral fins fused to form cup-shaped disc, originating below pectoral fin insertions (Gomon et al., 1994; Hoese and Larson, 1994; Lockett and Gomon, 1999).

This species is separable from other gobies by the presence of eight to nine spines in the first dorsal fin, 12-14 segmented rays in the second dorsal fin, the top of the head with 24-30 transverse rows of small scales, scaled cheeks and a transverse line of sensory papillae on cheek (Masuda et al., 1984; Hoese and Larson, 1994; Lockett and Gomon, 1999). It is also separable from other gobies that all have clear, white, grey or black ventral fins (Barnham, 1998).


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A. flavimanus is native to China, Japan and Korea (Nico and Fuller, 2008), although it is also recorded as native to the Russian Far East (Reshetnikov et al., 1997), Vietnam (Kuronuma, 1961) and Malaysia (GBIF, 2005). It has been introduced to Australia (Victoria and New South Wales) and California, USA (Arthington and Mckenzie, 1997; Williams et al., 2001) and has now spread to Mexico (Lever, 1996) and Florida, USA (Nico and Fuller, 2008).

In Japan, it ranges from Hokkaido to Kyushu, and has been found to occur in the Himi region from a habitat study conducted in Toyama Bay (Masuda et al., 1984). In California, it has been reported from Ballona Marsh, Calaveras River, Delta-Mendota Canal, Golden Gate National Recreation area, Las Pulgas, Long Beach Harbour, Los Angeles Harbour, Los Angeles River, Malibu Lagoon, Merced, Morro Bay, Moss Landing Harbour, Mugu Lagoon, Napa, Point Reyes National Seashore, Rodeo Lagoon, Sacramento Delta, San Francisco, San Gabriel River, San Luis Reservoir, San Mateo County, San Pablo Bay, Santa Clara, Santa Margarita Lagoons, Solano County, Sonoma County, Stockton Deepwater Channel, Venice and Yolo Bypass (Nico and Fuller, 2004). In Victoria, Australia is has been reported at Corio Bay, Dights Falls, Maribymong River, Werribee River and Yarra River by Barnham (1998), and Lintermans (2004) reported its presence in Port Phillip Bay. 

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


ChinaPresentNative Not invasive Eschmeyer et al., 1983
-Hong KongPresentNative Not invasive Ni and Kwok, 1999
JapanWidespreadNative Not invasive Masuda et al., 1984Ranges from Hokkaido to Kyushu.
Korea, Republic ofPresentNative Not invasive Kim et al., 2000
MalaysiaPresentNative Not invasive GBIF, 2005
VietnamPresentNative Not invasive Kuronuma, 1961

North America

MexicoPresentIntroducedLever, 1996
USAWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Welcomme, 1988
-CaliforniaPresentIntroduced Invasive Nico and Fuller, 2004
-FloridaPresentIntroduced Invasive Nico and Fuller, 2008Marin County, Orange County


Russian FederationPresentNativeReshetnikov et al., 1997


AustraliaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-New South WalesPresentIntroduced Invasive Bell et al., 1987Reported at Botany Bay, Hawkesbury River and Sydney Harbour
-VictoriaPresentIntroduced Invasive Koehn and Mackenzie, 2004

History of Introduction and Spread

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The alien range of A. flavimanus includes Australia and the USA, both considered to have been accidental introductions from Japan. 

The first records in North America were from California, being two specimens found in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region, San Joaquin County, in early 1963 (Nico and Fuller, 2008), although the yellowfin goby was probably introduced into California in 1959 or 1960, likely to be about the same time as the chameleon goby (Brittan et al., 1970; Meng et al., 1994). It was later found in surrounding areas including Suisan, San Pablo, San Francisco bays, the Sacramento Delta, the Yolo Bypass, Bolinas Lagoon, Delta-Mendota Canal, the San Luis Reservoir in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Merced, Napa (possibly), San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma counties (Brittan et al., 1970; Moyle, 1976; Courtenay et al., 1986; Wang, 1986; Sommer et al., 2001). The following account on introductions and means of introductions in the USA is based on Nico and Fuller (2008).

Specimens were found in Elkhorn Slough, Monterey County (Kukowski, 1972; Wang, 1986), Tomales Bay, Moss Landing Harbor, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County (Miller and Lea, 1972; Wang, 1986; Tilmant, 1999). The first records in southern California were from the Los Angeles Harbor area, Los Angeles County, in 1977 (Haaker, 1979); subsequently specimens were found in Long Beach Harbor and near the mouth of the Los Angeles River, Los Angeles County; in the San Gabriel River, Upper Newport Bay, and upstream to San Diego Creek, Orange County; and in Ballona Marsh and Mugu Lagoon (Haaker, 1979; Swift et al., 1993). It was reported, apparently in small numbers, from other coastal areas of southern California including Malibu Lagoon, San Onofre, San Mateo, Las Pulgas, and Santa Margarita lagoons, and Morro Bay (Swift et al., 1993). In 1980, it was reported as occurring in San Diego (perhaps extending as far south as Baja California Norte, Mexico) (Courtenay et al., 1986). Williams et al. (1998) reported them from San Diego Bay marshes, but gave the first date for that area as 1984.

Lever (1996) recorded its presence in Mexico, having spread south to Baja California del Norte.

A. flavimanus was introduced into Australia in 1971, accidentally, from Japan, found in Sydney Harbour, New South Wales (Hoese, 1973; Pollard, 1989). It was first recorded in Victoria in 1991 from the Yarra River just below Dights Falls, Melbourne (Barham, 1998). Specimens have since been collected from the lower reaches of the Yarra River, the Maribyrnong River, the Werribee River, and from Corio Bay near Geelong. So far all known locations are contained within the Port Phillip Bay catchment in Australia. Whereas Acanthogobius pflaumi appear to be well suited to conditions in Australia, populations of A. flavimanus have failed to rapidly expand their distributions and seem to be controlled by factors yet to be determined (Lockett and Gomon, 2001).


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Australia Japan 1971 Yes Hoese (1973); Pollard (1989) Self reproducing. Accidentally introduced with oyster shipments or in ballast water of ships. Recorded from Sydney Harbour, New South Wales
Mexico   Yes Lever (1996) Accidental with ships. Self reproducing
USA Japan 1963 Yes Brittan et al. (1963); Lever (1996); Welcomme (1988) Accidental with ships. Self reproducing


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A. flavimanus is a bottom dwelling fish inhabiting muddy and sandy bottoms along the shore of bays and estuaries, and sometimes ascending rivers (Froese and Pauly, 2008). Individual fish are commonly found in bays and inlets in water depths between 1 and 14 m (Barnham, 1998). However, A. flavimanus are usually found in freshwater reaches of streams just above tidal influence during most of the year, and adult fish migrate downstream to spawn in the estuaries during the breeding season in winter months.

Habitat List

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Bays Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Bays Principal habitat Natural
Reservoirs Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Rivers / streams Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Estuaries Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Estuaries Principal habitat Natural

Biology and Ecology

Top of page Genetics

The haploid and diploid chromosome number recorded for A. flavimanus in Japan is n=22 and 2n=44 (Arkhipchuk, 1999). A. flavimanus has been sequenced and is described in Neilson and Wilson (2005).

Reproductive Biology

A. flavimanus is oviparous, spawning in winter to early spring and during the breeding season, the adults migrate downstream to spawn in the estuaries (Breder and Rosen, 1966). Fecundity ranges between 6000 and 37,000 eggs per individual (Williams et al., 1998). The eggs are constructed in intertidal mudflats and deposited in Y-shaped covered nests (burrows or tunnels), 15-35 cm deep and are ovoid (Masuda et al., 1975). The eggs measure 5.5 mm long and 0.9 mm wide and take around 28 days to hatch into free swimming larvae at optimum temperature (13°C) (Wang, 1986; Barnham, 1998; Froese and Pauly, 2005). The female may leave the burrow after spawning or may join the male in guarding the eggs (NIMPIS, 2002).   

A. flavimanus larvae are pelagic. Newly hatched larvae swim out of the burrow and remain near the bottom. The larvae remain in the water column until they reach 1.5-2.0 cm long, when they settle out of the water column (NIMPIS, 2002). After the yolk sac is absorbed, the larvae disperse rapidly. The larvae float on the surface of the water column during flood tide and descend to near the bottom while the tide ebbs (Wang, 1986). It is thought that breeding is temperature dependant, with no spawning occurring outside of 7-13°C. In Australia, reproduction occurs in winter (June-September) (NIMPIS, 2002).


A. flavimanus feeds on benthic organisms such as crustaceans, polychaetes and small teleost fish (NIMPIS, 2002). It consumes a large variety of crustaceans such as copepods, amphipods, stomatopods and mysids, and has been reported as aggressively feeding on smaller fish (Barnham, 1998). Wang (1986) reports that, major food items for small juvenile A. flavimanus are harpacticoid copepods and other copepods, whereas the large juveniles eat amphipods, mysid shrimp, and small fish.

Environmental Requirements

A. flavimanus can withstand abrupt changes between fresh and salt water, and can survive temperatures greater than 28°C. They can complete their entire life cycle in fresh water, although usually at least the larval stages are spent in salt water (Moyle, 1976).


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C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)

Water Tolerances

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ParameterMinimum ValueMaximum ValueTypical ValueStatusLife StageNotes
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) Optimum >2.7
Salinity (part per thousand) 27 35 Optimum
Water temperature (ºC temperature) 12 27 Optimum

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Acanthogobius lactipes Predator Adult not specific Kanou et al., 2004
Lateolabrax japonicus Predator Fry not specific Kanou et al., 2004
Lophius litulon Predator Adult not specific Baeck and Huh, 2003
Okamejei kenojei Predator Adult not specific Hong et al., 2000
Sillago japonica Predator Adult not specific Kwak et al., 2004
Triakis semifasciata Predator Adult not specific Talent, 1976

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Lophius litulon (Baeck and Huh, 2003), Okamejei kenojei (Hong et al., 2000), Sillago japonica (Kwak et al., 2004), Triakis semifasciata (Talent, 1976), and Acanthogobius lactipes (Kanou et al., 2004) prey on juvenile and adult stages of A. flavimanuswhereas Lateolabrax japonicus (Kanou et al., 2004) prey on fry and juvenile stages.

There are no known predators of A. flavimanus in Australia. However, finfish and rays have been recorded as general predators of introduced populations in the USA (NIMPIS, 2002).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Once established,
A. flavimanus can spread locally, probably as a result of its own dispersal abilities and sometimes dispersal may result with the aid of currents (Nico and Fuller, 2004).  

Accidental Introductions

A. flavimanus
was accidentally introduced to Australia and the west coast of North America. Initial and possibly later introductions were probably by way of ballast water carried in transoceanic ships (Brittan et al., 1963), and possibly also arriving as eggs on fouling organisms, such as oysters, growing on ship hulls (Hubbs and Miller, 1965; Eschmeyer et al., 1983;Nico and Fuller, 2008). It is assumed to have been introduced to California in numbers in the range of 1000-10,000 larvae (Marchetti et al., 2004).

Local translocation by recreational craft was suggested as one of several possible mechanisms by which A. flavimanus populations in Australia have spread to regions that are not commercial shipping ports (Lockett and Gomon, 2001).

In addition, some local dispersal may have resulted from its possible use as a baitfish (Brittan et al., 1970; Courtenay and Hensley, 1979).

Impact Summary

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Economic/livelihood Positive
Environment (generally) Negative

Economic Impact

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A. flavimanus is of commercial importance in fisheries. It is also used in public aquariums as an ornamental fish (Froese and Pauly, 2008), and may have some occasional use as a baitfish. In contrast, Welcomme (1988) stated that this small coastal brackish water species has no importance for either commercial or sports fisheries.

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Biodiversity

The introduction of A. flavimanus alters fish communities and hastens the decline of native species. A. flavimanus has also been reported to have partially replaced Pacific Leptocottus armatus (staghorn sculpins) (Brittan et al., 1970). In California, USA A. flavimanus might out-compete and possibly eliminate freshwater populations of the small and endangered tidewater goby Eucyclogobius newberryi (Moyle, 1976a). It also competes for food sources with native species leading further to their decline (Meng et al., 1994; Lafferty et al., 1999; Nico and Fuller, 2008).

Drought conditions in California have reduced freshwater outflows and may have allowed A. flavimanus to gain an advantage over native freshwater and estuarine fishes less able to tolerate high salinity conditions (Herbold et al., 1992; Meng et al., 1994). Meng et al. (1994) suggested that environmental disturbances, coupled with the introduction of this and other foreign species, are altering fish communities and hastening declines of native fishes in California.

Although Meng et al. (1994) found that the A. flavimanus has an impact on the introduced Tridentiger trigonocephalus (chameleon goby), recent investigations have shown this species is actually Tridentiger bifasciatus (shimofuri goby) and not T. trigonocephalus that occurs in Suisun Bay where the study was conducted (Nico and Fuller, 2008).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Eucyclogobius newberryi (tidewater goby)NT (IUCN red list: Near threatened) NT (IUCN red list: Near threatened); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesCaliforniaCompetitionMoyle, 1976

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
Impact outcomes
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Difficult/costly to control


Top of page Economic Value

Although Welcomme (1988) reported that A. flavimanus has no commercial value in fishery or sports fishery, others note its commercial value in fisheries and in public aquariums as an ornamental fish (Froese and Pauly, 2008), and may have some occasional use as a baitfish, although no figures are available on economic benefits.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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A. flavimanus is sometimes confused with juvenile whiting (Sillago sp.), but can be distinguished by the fused ventral fins. It is similar in appearance to Arenigobius bifrenatus and Arenigobius frenatus, but does not have horizontal black stripes on the head that the latter two species have (NIMPIS, 2002). It can be separated from all other gobiid species in southern Australia by the combination of eight or nine spines in the first dorsal fin and the 12-14 segmented rays in the second dorsal fin (Lockett and Gomon, 1999). A. flavimanus is included in keys of Berg (1948), Miller and Lea (1972), and Moyle (1976a).

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.


Williams et al. (1998) recommend management actions that reduce off-season freshwater inflows and return tidal action to impounded saltmarsh areas in order to favour native species and prevent further spread of exotics. A. flavimanus underwent a population explosion in the San Francisco area in the late 1960s and early 1970s (Brittan et al., 1970). In 1967, a fish kill occurred in the San Luis Reservoir, which receives freshwater from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. About half of the approximately 10,000 fishes killed in this incident were A. flavimanus (Brittan et al., 1970). Apparently another massive die-off occurred in Rodeo Lagoon in 1981 and was thought to be caused by low salinity <5 ppt) (Wang, 1984).


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Tilmant JT, 1999. Management of nonindigenous aquatic fish in the U.S. National Park System. USA: National Park Service, 50 pp.

Wang JCS, 1986. Fishes of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Estuary and Adjacent Waters, California: A Guide to the Early Life Histories. Berkeley, USA: Digital Library Project, ix + 680 pp. [Interagency Ecological Program Technical Report No. 9].

Welcomme RL, 1988. International introductions of inland aquatic species. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper No. 294. Rome, Italy: FAO, 318 pp.

Williams GD; Desmond JS; Zedler JB, 1998. Extension of 2 nonindigenous fishes, Acanthogobius flavimanus and Poecilia latipinna, into San Diego Bay marsh habitats. California Fish & Game, 84(1 Winter):1-17.

Links to Websites

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GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS) source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
National Introduced Marine Pest Information System (NIMPIS)
Non-indigenous Aquatic Species, United States Geography Survey


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Italy: FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome,

USA: United States Geological Survey, USGS National Center 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, VA 20192,

Australia: CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), CSIRO Enquiries, Bag 10, Clayton South VIC 3169,


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24/04/08 Original text by:

Sunil Siriwardena, Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA, UK

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