University of Miami Inter-American Law Review


Kelly Cox


Aquatic invasive species are marine, estuarine, or freshwater organisms that adversely impact ecosystems they are not native to. Such impacts include long-lasting or permanent damage to habitats, ecosystem balance, and biodiversity. These impacts have a cascading effect on local economies dependent on these natural resources by impeding recreational and commercial activities. Moreover, aquatic invasive species control and management is both complex and challenging due to the lack of physical barriers in aquatic environments to abate or contain the spread of these nuisance species. The Wider Caribbean Region has been notably impacted by the introduction of the non-native lionfish (Pterois volitans) which has devastated native fish populations and reef communities. Because of the regional nature of this issue, several international frameworks have sought to address the aquatic invasive species problem. This article conducts a comparative analysis of the provisions employed to address aquatic invasive species within the Convention on Biological Diversity, the International Maritime Organization’s Ballast Water Management Convention, and the Cartagena Convention’s Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife Protocol. Further, this article assesses the efficacy of these international legal frameworks and the various control and enforcement mechanisms they require. Climate change is dynamically impacting the distribution of native species and undamentally altering important aquatic ecosystem components such as temperature, rainfall, sea level, and salinity. These changing conditions coupled with the introduction of dominant and aggressive invasive species are changing the face of aquatic ecosystems. It is more important than ever to discuss the future of these ecosystems and how we can protect them.