Wet Markets and Invasive Alien Species

Over 60 % of all tropical deforestation and loss of biodiversity occur because of the global food system, mainly trade. Wet markets are defined as a marketplace that sells produce, fresh meat, fish, and other consumption-oriented perishable goods in a non-supermarket setting. Wet markets sell live animals around the world and are commonly found in Asia and large Asian cities with high populations. The markets mix domestic and wild animals from varying places. The mix of animals includes Nicaraguan frogs, French pigs, African parrots, Chinese chickens, African pangolins, and even American guinea pigs. 

Invasive species can spread in wet markets as little attention is paid to slaughter practices, housing, trapping, or transport. Sanitary practices are not commonly used, only in more commercial operations of livestock. These wet markets have been proven and speculated to be the cause of zoonotic disease outbreaks like the SARS virus in 2003 and the most recent SARS-CoV-2 in 2020.  

Wet markets attract scavenger animals and pests, which optimize the spread of foodborne diseases. Disease transmissions may occur while en route to the market where the animals are sold or at the location of the wet market. Invasive species can be near humans and other animals which can cause a problem of exposure. Humans might intentionally or unintentionally touch an invasive species without knowing what it is and pick up a pathogen or disease, unknowingly spreading it. The same could happen with animals near invasive species that can pick up a disease from the IAS.  

Wet markets are a part of the global wildlife trade. Global wildlife trade may incorporate over four thousand different types of species and have a likelihood of increasing with globalization. Illegal trade has been wildly documented as having traded over six thousand species illegally. Other unlawful activities like illegal wildlife trade or illegal hunting have contributed to the commercial exploitation of wildlife, whether the animals be dead, alive, or harvesting in parts.  

Currently, there are regulations being implemented in wet markets in high-risk regions. Wet markets are common around the world, while the Caribbean don’t have wet markets, local fish markets can unknowingly obtain invasive aquatic species, deeming it exotic for sale.  Improving biosecurity in the Caribbean is also another important plan that is being taken into consideration by the respective governments and agencies. A set of policy briefs was recently created to address the fragility of biosecurity in the Caribbean and the much-needed framework that must be implemented to prevent and manage future invasive species.  


GEF – The Complexities and Imperatives of Building Back Better 

ScienceDirect – Live and Wet Markets: Food Access versus the Risk of Disease Emergence 

NCBI – Illicit Wildlife Trade, Wet Markets, and COVID‐19: Preventing Future Pandemics 

Policy Brief – Improving Biosecurity will Safeguard our Health, Economy and Irreplaceable Biodiversity