updated 7/27/2007 9:30:30 AM ET 2007-07-27T13:30:30

A team of 20 researchers will scour docks and piers along the Maine coast in search of nonnative plants and animals that could harm the marine environment.

The project begins Saturday and brings together scientists from the U.S., the Netherlands, Brazil and Canada. They will inspect permanently floating docks and piers in Wells, South Portland, Portland, Freeport, Walpole, Boothbay, Rockland and Camden.

The project is coordinated by the MIT Sea Grant program, with assistance from the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership and the Massachusetts Bays Program.

The effort is part of a seven-day initiative to identify and catalog plants and animals in waters from Cape Cod through Maine's midcoast to better understand and manage the coastal environment.

Similar surveys in Maine in 2000 and 2003 revealed 34 nonnative organisms in Maine waters.

Nonnative species can present threats to native organisms that live on the Maine coast.

The European green crab and Asian shore crab, for instance, prey on commercially valuable shellfish. Other species can damage piers and pilings and clog pipes.

Colonies of sea squirts living on the ocean floor on Georges Bank off Massachusetts have the potential to cover the sea floor like a mat, threatening to damage the scallop fishery.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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