Invasive Alien Species strategy a step forward but reinforcement needed
Posted on 09/09/2013
Eurogroup for Animals welcomes the publication today of the long-awaited invasive alien species strategy, including reference to animal welfare, but fears that the proposal is too weak to be effective. Eurogroup therefore calls on the European Parliament and the Council to strengthen the proposal and ensure this legislation has an impact on improving biodiversity.
There are several drivers and impacts of biodiversity loss at the EU and global level. Invasive alien species, “a species whose introduction and/or spread outside their natural past or present distribution threatens biological diversity” are recognised as the second major driver to biodiversity loss after habitat fragmentation. The introduction of invasive alien species to Europe is occurring at an unprecedented rate with pathways opened via international trade and travel.
Invasive alien species can also pose a health risk to native wildlife and even humans. Major reservoirs of the rabies virus have been identified in raccoons imported from North America for the pet trade and raccoon dogs imported to Eastern Europe for fur farming. The chytrid fungus that is decimating amphibian populations across the globe has been greatly influenced by unregulated trade bringing the fungus into areas lacking a resistance.
Many of Europe’s current invasive alien species were introduced intentionally as pets, in wildlife collections and on fur farms and only after these animals escaped or were released into the wild did a problem arise.
Following an analysis of the proposal we are concerned by the following points:
- A 50 species cap for the black list is proposed. We believe this arbitrary cap is too low when compared to biosecurity systems adopted by other countries and fails to effectively control Invasive Alien Species in Europe. The EU proposal of a maximum list of 50 species (for plants and animals) fails to adopt the precautionary approach.
- Animal welfare is referenced in the proposal and we welcome this, as we have an ethical responsibility since we bring these animals into the European Union. These animals have the capacity to feel pain and suffer, in the same way as any other animal and we must consider control methods that take into account animal welfare and wherever possible prevent them entering the EU.
- Prevention is recognised by the Convention on Biological Diversity as the most cost-effective, and animal welfare friendly, approach to controlling invasive species. Black lists are reactive in nature, and as invasive alien species can often go undetected for decades before their impact is fully recognised such a system is counter-productive to the goal of preventing them. The lag time between an invasive species being detected and action taken can result in substantially higher costs for controls and greater loss of life for the number of species (including animals) that are controlled.
- A rapid mechanism to amend the list appears to be lacking with evaluation only occurring after 5 years. If the EU uses the least restrictive and effective approach of a black list, it must ensure a mechanism is included to rapidly amend the list for new species in trade or identified as invasive.
- No polluter-pays principle is included and in times of economic austerity like today, responsibility for industries introducing these species should be upheld via taxes or fines. This would also take the burden off governments to pay for controls or reparation of damage caused.
- Finally, Member States have been tasked with offering to take over specimens from non-commercial owners if they cannot maintain them under controlled conditions, but no reference to funding for such rescue strategies/centres has been identified.
“We have been waiting for this proposal for some time and had high expectations for its content. The proposal goes some way towards addressing our concerns but is not as far reaching or forward looking as we hoped,” commented Reineke Hameleers, Director at Eurogroup for Animals.
“We now call upon the European Parliament and Council to take into account our concerns and ensure that a robust strategy is put in place that stops the import of invasive alien species and manages existing populations in a humane and efficient way to prevent animal suffering,” she concluded.