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Many species commonly used for bait in lakes, rivers and oceans originate from habitats other than that in which they are affixed to a hook and used as fish bait. Dumping leftover bait introduces a concentrated number of a species which may be invasive. Invasive species can cause severe, rapid and permanent damage to an ecosystem, including resource depletion, disease spread and extinction.
Sometimes the culprit in dumped bait can be a species incidentally included in bait packaging, including non-animal species. Live marine sand worms, for example, are commonly packed in brown seaweed to keep the worms cool and moist. The seaweed, called wormweed, hosts a multitude of microalgae which may be harmful to a new environment. These additional unseen species are known as hitchhikers.
To prevent the introduction of invasive species, anglers should refrain from dumping purchased bait, or bait collected in another body of water, into the water. Bait collected in the same water in which it is dumped is okay. Anglers should also refrain from dumping bilge water or live well water which may have been acquired in another body of water. Even lakes within a few miles of each other can have very different species populations.