An aquatic invasive species is a water-dwelling organism that may cause ecological or economic harm in a new environment where it is not native. AIS can outcompete native species for limited resources, reduce native diversity or abundance, permanently alter native habitats, and impair ecosystem functions. In addition, AIS can harm human health and negatively affect commercial and recreational uses of infested waters, causing significant economic impacts. As a result, AIS are considered one of the most serious threats to aquatic environments.
AIS have infested fresh, estuarine, and marine waters throughout the world. Their widespread distribution is due in large part to human actions that have contributed to the introduction of these species to areas outside of their normal range. For instance, AIS can travel long distances attached to marine debris, recreational watercraft or gear; are often sold as aquarium specimens (and can subsequently be released, either accidentally or intentionally); and are regularly transported in the ballast water of oceangoing vessels. Invasive species can often expand rapidly in new environments making eradication efforts challenging if not impossible. Therefore, introductions of AIS should be avoided whenever possible. In cases where AIS have been introduced to a new area or ecosystem, early detection and rapid response measures (e.g., eradication, monitoring, control) conducted by the appropriate authorities can help avoid or minimize adverse effects from the infestation.
West Coast Region Aquatic Invasive Species Issues
For more information on AIS and what you can do to prevent their spread see:
- NOAA Fisheries - Invasive and Exotic Marine Species
- National Ocean Service – What is an Invasive Species
- U.S. Department of Agriculture – National Invasive Species Information Center
- Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force
- National Invasive Species Awareness Week – Learn About Invasive Species