For centuries human populations have moved live shellfish around the world for consumption or aquaculture purposes; being relayed from their area of origin for growout or sale. This is in contrast to the inadvertent anthropogenic spreading of species via e.g. ballast waters. There are inherent risks associated with transfer of shellfish including introducing of alien species, diseases, pests, bacteria and viruses associated with the translocated species in addition to the potential impact on genetic integrity and biodiversity of local stocks. Many examples of severe ecological impacts have been documented worldwide owing to the intentional or unintentional translocation of animals. It is therefore important to develop risk reduction methods which have not yet been documented to be incorporated into current fish health or environmental legislation. This part of the study describes the impacts of transfer activities of cultured bivalve shellfish along the European Atlantic coast; identifies hitch hiker species, fouling organisms or infectious agents which can be translocated with a target species. Further, the study highlights the need for thorough, standard risk reduction measures designed to minimise the impact on ecosystems worldwide. In a companion paper details of actual transfer activities in Atlantic Europe are presented and all levels of legislation dealing with transfer activities on a global, regional and national scale are carefully reviewed.