An invasive species is an animal or plant that is introduced into a new environment, where does not normally live


Invasive species can harm both the natural resources in an ecosystem as well as threaten human use of these resources. An invasive species can be introduced to a new area via the ballast water of oceangoing ships; intentional and accidental releases of aquaculture species, aquarium specimens, or bait; and other means.

Invasive species are capable of causing extinctions of native plants and animals, reducing biodiversity, competing with native organisms for limited resources, and altering habitats. This can result in huge economic impacts and fundamental disruptions of coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems.

In the waters of the Florida Keys, our most infamous marine invader is the lionfish. The lionfish is native to the Indo-Pacific region, but was introduced to the Atlantic and is now found along the U.S. coast from North Carolina to Florida and in the Bahamas and Caribbean.

The lionfish’s lack of predators, voracious appetite, rapid reproduction, and fast growth spell trouble for the balance of invaded ecosystems and fisheries, as lionfish can out-compete native species for food and space.

Did You Know?

You should never dump unwanted animals or plants into the wild. Not only do Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary regulations prohibit the release of exotic species in sanctuary waters, but it is also much less costly to prevent an introduction than to eradicate an already introduced species.