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Publication #SGEB60

A Primer on Invasive Species in Coastal and Marine Waters1

Charles Jacoby, Linda Walters, Shirley Baker, Karen Blyler2

Invasive species represent a critical issue for society. Recent estimates show that such species cost the United States nearly $120 billion per year and put significant pressure on about 42% of threatened and endangered species (Pimental, Zuniga, and Morrison, 2005). The costs and problems associated with invasive species impact almost all aspects of our society, including agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture, fishing, boating, diving, the environment, and natural habitats.

Management of invasive species is increasing around the world. In the United States, management falls to multiple agencies with complex, overlapping, and confusing responsibilities. However, common threads run through strategic plans at the national, regional, and state levels. Threads include:

  • leadership, coordination, and cooperation

  • research and information management

  • prevention

  • early detection and rapid response

  • effective management

  • education and outreach

Management agencies agree that success in dealing with invasive species relies on education and outreach. A Primer on Invasive Species in Coastal and Marine Waters addresses a need identified during a workshop held in 2002. At Invasive species in Floridas saltwater systems: where we are and where were going, 75 participants from federal, regional, state and local government agencies; non-governmental organizations; universities; private research organizations; high schools; and private industry agreed that a document with some basic information about invasive species would fill one of the key gaps in our education and outreach efforts.

The primer fills this need by providing important background information on invasive species, especially invasive species in saltwater systems. Its eight major sections:

  • define key terms;

  • explain the history of introduced and invasive species;

  • provide examples of the impacts of invasive species;

  • discuss the potential harm caused by introduced species in saltwater systems;

  • provide examples of how species are introduced into coastal and marine systems;

  • explain how introduced species may spread through coastal and marine systems;

  • discuss the challenges associated with preventing introductions and invasions; and

  • outline management of invasive species by groups in the United States.

The primer also provides useful references and sources of further information and assistance. It contains:

  • a bibliography;

  • a glossary;

  • a list of laws and conventions dealing with invasive species;

  • a list of contacts in each state; and

• sources of more information on introduced or invasive species.

(Download complete pdf, 2.5 Mb)


Pimentel, D., R. Zuniga, and D. Morrison. 2005. Update on the environmental and economic costs associated with alien-invasive species in the placecountry-regionUnited States. Ecological Economics 52: 273–288.



This document is SGEB-60, published by the Florida Sea Grant College Program with support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Sea Grant, U.S. Department of Commerce. Published July 2004. Reviewed March 2009. For more information or copies, contact Florida Sea Grant, PO Box 110400, Gainesville, FL 32611-0400, 352-392-5870.


Charles Jacoby, UF/IFAS Program for Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611; Linda Walters, Department of Biology, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, 32186; Shirley Baker, Assistant Professor, UF/IFAS Program for Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611; Karen Blyler, Coodinator of Education and Training, Florida 4-H Youth Development Program, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.