Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are a global environmental issue in both marine and freshwater ecosystems and have had significant impacts on ecosystems and economies across the world. AIS are spread through a wide range of vectors including shipping, stocking, and live trade. Minimizing the ecological and economic impacts of AIS involves understanding the risks they pose and the preventative and control measures required to minimize those risks. AIS are known to have multiple synergistic impacts on ecosystem health and may be contributing to numerous other stressors including harmful algal blooms and fish kills.

The high volume of international marine traffic that passes through the Sea of Oman presents an obvious risk for AIS. The goals of the Marine Invasive Species (MIS) conference were to bring together leading researchers and experts from across the world to share the current state of knowledge on the risks, impacts and control measures needed to manage AIS, with special attention to ballast water management strategies. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA), Sultanate of Oman, and the Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management Society (AEHMS), Canada, convened this important event for the Gulf Region as well as for the international community. This is the first time that such an event has been organized in the Middle East, providing an excellent opportunity for the interaction of researchers, managers, students and policy makers to collectively confront this expanding threat to the ecosystem health, habitat and integrity of marine environments (Figure 1).

International publicity for the conference was overwhelming with over 200 scientists expressing interest to participate from 37 countries. Peer review of the abstracts resulted in the selection of 46 platform presentations including 9 keynotes and 23 posters. Keynotes and featured speakers were meticulously selected based on their expertise and scientific reputation to focus on various themes of the conference. The selection process resulted in a unique variety of experts from Australia, Canada, Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom and the United States.

The program was organized in the following themes to investigate AIS topics in a coherent fashion:

  • Vectors and pathways

  • Impact of invasive species

  • Risk assessment

  • Management strategies

As per its tradition, the AEHMS organized this special issue consisting of 10 articles dealing with various aspects of marine invasive species dynamics. All papers were submitted to the AEHMS and subjected to the standard peer review and revision process. Once accepted the manuscripts were technically and linguistically edited by the Society for final publication in the journal. This special issue is a unique collection of several keynote contributions from across the world.

The AEHMS would sincerely like to thank the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs for co-organizing the conference. Thanks are due to His Excellency Najeeb Al Rawas, A. Alkiyumi, S. Al Akhazami, S. Al-Hashmi, M. Al-Tarshi and A. Al-Azri for their assistance and support. We are grateful to the keynotes and featured speakers for making excellent contributions to the program as well to this special issue. We appreciate the continued assistance of AEHMS staff (Lisa Elder, J. Lorimer and S. Blunt) in the organization of the event in Oman and the publication of this special issue.

We hope that the recommendations of the team of global experts as presented in various articles will serve as guidance in developing ecosystem science based management strategies and policies for dealing with the threat of AIS. The insights that may emerge from the articles in the special issue could result in the transformation of strategies and technologies to ensure the protection of not only Omani-Gulf ecosystems, but also globally.

Mohiuddin Munawar, Conference Co-chair and Chief Editor: Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management Society, Canada

Sarah Bailey, Program Co-chair and Guest Editor University of Windsor, Canada