Marine Invasive Species

The flora and fauna of the Wider Caribbean Region (WCR) is diverse and has significant ecological, aesthetic, economic and amenity value to the countries and territories of the region.  Increasingly, invasive species are seen as a threat to indigenous biodiversity, through their impacts on natural and semi-natural habitats and ecosystems and are now widely cited as the second greatest global threat to biodiversity, after habitat destruction. The impacts of invasive species can be ecologically complex, operating at ecosystem, habitat, community, species and genetic levels.The issue of invasive species as an environmental and sustainable development threat is increasingly recognized by a number of treaties such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Article 12 of the Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) Protocol outlines that each Party shall take all appropriate measures to regulate or prohibit intentional or accidental introduction of non-indigenous (=alien) or genetically altered species to the wild that may cause harmful impacts to the natural flora, fauna or other features of the WCR.

Marine invasive species in the Caribbean

Little is known or documented on the status of marine invasive species in the Caribbean beyond a few instances (e.g. Perna viridis - green mussel). Indeed, a 2003 compilation listed of 552 invasive species in the insular Caribbean, only 18 of which were marine (Kairo et al., 2003*). The authors speculated that this was at least in part because technological advances facilitating the reporting of marine species (e.g. improvements in diving equipment) were recent. In addition, there was often difficulty in determining whether newly reported marine species were introduced aliens or merely native species that had formerly gone unobserved. It was concluded that there was a gap in knowledge regarding the status of introduced organisms in the marine environment, and the threat that these may constitute.

What is the CEP doing

In keeping with the approved workplan and budget of the regional SPAW programme, UNEP-CAR/RCU commissioned the Caribbean and Latin America Regional Centre (CLARC) of CAB International (CABI) to undertake a desk study to “produce a compilation of information on national and regional capacities and experiences on marine invasive species management programmes in the Wider Caribbean, including ballast water management”.

Two bilingual questionnaires, aimed at garnering information at the national and regional levels, respectively, were widely disseminated and an up-to-date list of MIS in the WCR was synthesized from the responses and publications on reliable websites.

A total number of 118 MIS were recorded, led by fishes (39) and arthropods (31). Of 23 responses to the questionnaires, 19 were from national agencies and four regional. Each of the four regional agencies covered different geographic areas, ranging from small islands to mainland North America. Their wide-ranging mandate covered tertiary education and capacity building, natural resource management, conservation, monitoring and enforcement of regulations, biological information systems and risk analysis for biodiversity. Human and infrastructure capacity was largely deemed adequate for current activities. None of the agencies had MIS/BW on their immediate agenda, although there was awareness of the potential importance of the area.

The report "National and Regional Capacities and Experiences on Marine Invasive Species, Including Ballast Waters, Management Programmes in the Wider Caribbean Region - a Compilation of Current Information" by CABI (July 2006) can be downloaded here.

Additional relevant activities include:

  • Collaboration with the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP) and its capacity building activities with UNEP Regional Seas Programme on management of marine allien invasive species;


The Global Invasive Species Programme