Fish and Aquatic Conservation

Laws, Policies and Regulations


The National Invasive Species Act (NISA) was passed in 1996 amending the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990. The 1990 Act established the ANS Species Task Force to coordinate nationwide ANS activities. The ANS Task Force is co-chaired by the Service’s Assistant Director for Fisheries and Habitat Conservation and the Undersecretary of Commerce/NOAA. NISA furthered ANS activities by calling for ballast water regulations, the development of State management plans and regional panels to combat the spread of ANS, and additional ANS outreach and research.

Executive Order 13112

In 1999, President Clinton signed Executive Order 13112 on Invasive Species. This Order established a National Invasive Species Council, which helps coordinate activities of existing federal agencies that address terrestrial and aquatic invasive species.  It also directed Federal agencies to conduct, as appropriate, activities related to invasive species prevention; early detection, rapid response, and control; monitoring; restoration, research; and education.  The Order also directed Federal agencies to not authorize, fund, or carry out actions that it believes are likely to cause or promote the introduction or spread of invasive species in the United States unless the agency has determined and made public its determination that the benefits of such actions clearly outweigh the potential harm caused by invasive species; and that all feasible and prudent measures to minimize risk of harm will be taken in conjunction with the actions.

The Lacey Act

The Lacey Act (pdf) is a law that dates back to 1900 and is one of the oldest wildlife-related laws on the books. Under the Lacey Act, the Secretary of the Interior is authorized to regulate the importation and transport of species, including offspring and eggs, determined to be injurious to the health and welfare of humans, the interests of agriculture, horticulture or forestry, and the welfare and survival of wildlife resources of the U.S.  Wild mammals, wild birds, fish, mollusks, crustaceans, amphibians, and reptiles are the only organisms that can be added to the injurious wildlife list. 

Species listed as injurious may not be imported or transported between States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any territory or possession of the U.S. by any means without a permit issued by the Service. Permits may be granted for the importation or transportation of live specimens of injurious wildlife and their offspring or eggs for bona fide scientific, medical, educational, or zoological purposes.

An injurious wildlife listing would not prohibit intrastate transport or possession of that species within a State, where those activities are not prohibited by the State. 

A current list of Injurious Wildlife Species and information on Injurious wildlife species under evaluation can be found by visiting our Injurious Wildlife page.

Other Agencies' Laws Regulating Invasive Species

Other agencies besides the USFWS have laws restricting the importation or possession of certain wildlife and plant species. Here are links:

Last updated: January 15, 2016