Butenolide [5-octylfuran-2(5H)-one] is a recently discovered and very promising anti-marine-fouling compound. In this study, the acute toxicity of butenolide was assessed in several non-target organisms, including micro algae, crustaceans, and fish. Results were compared with previously reported results on the effective concentrations used on fouling (target) organisms. According to OECD's guideline, the predicted no effect concentration (PNEC) was 0.168 µg l^(−1), which was among one of the highest in representative new biocides. Mechanistically, the phenotype of butenolide-treated Danio rerio (zebrafish) embryos was similar to the phenotype of the pro-caspase-3 over-expression mutant with pericardial edema, small eyes, small brains, and increased numbers of apoptotic cells in the bodies of zebrafish embryos. Butenolide also induced apoptosis in HeLa cells, with the activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNK), Bcl-2 family proteins, and caspases and proteasomes/lysosomes involved in this process. This is the first detailed toxicity and toxicology study on this antifouling compound.