Invasive Alien Species
ABOUT THE ISSUE
Invasive alien species (IAS) are species whose introduction outside their natural distribution threatens biodiversity. They are the second major driver to biodiversity loss (through predation, competition and hybridisation) after habitat fragmentation. They can also negatively impact animal and human health, ecosystems and the economy.
Many IAS were introduced intentionally in the EU, i.e. as pets or on fur farms, but problems arose after the animals escaped or were released into the wild. The introduction of IAS to Europe has been accelerated through international trade and travel.
WHAT IS THE CURRENT SITUATION
The EU Wildlife Trade Regulations restrict the import of four ecologically threatening species (e.g. red-eared terrapin, American bullfrog, painted turtle and American ruddy duck), yet many other exotic species threaten habitats, native wildlife, and economies. At the Member States level there is great variation in the restrictions and scope of IAS regulations.
The Commission is currently developing a Strategy on Invasive Alien Species, which could include trade restrictions on the importation of certain species. An online public consultation was held in early 2012 with the results published in September. Over 5000 respondents participated and more than 80% of respondents supported some form of restriction on the import and keeping of IAS. The Commission’s proposal for a new IAS Strategy has been delayed until 2013.
The Council of Europe oversees the Bern Convention, a binding international legal instrument in the field of nature conservation covering Europe and some States of Africa. In 2003, the Bern Convention developed a European Strategy on IAS and more recently voluntary codes of conduct on IAS and pet animals and zoos have been adopted by focusing on proactive measures for industry and governments to raise public awareness and prevent the introduction of IAS.
WHAT ARE WE CALLING FOR
- A dedicated legislative instrument and integration of prevention and control measures with other relevant EU policies (e.g. Animal Health Regime).
- Emphasis and resources should be placed on prevention as a priority, with full application of the precautionary principle.
- Creation of a list of species which can be imported and kept, to avoid potential IAS being introduced.
- Regarding control, eradication and management programmes, emphasis should be placed on humane controls which avoid or minimise pain, suffering and distress to target and non-target animals.
- Parties to the Bern Convention to support national voluntary codes of conduct on IAS and pets and zoological gardens, as an interim step until comprehensive regulation of IAS are adopted.
European Commission links
- Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020
- European Commission's Biodiversity website
- European Commission's IAS website
- European Commission IAS online consultation results
- Report for European Commission, Assessment to support continued development of the EU strategy to combat invasive alien species
Bern Convention links
- Bern Convention Website
- Bern Code of Conduct on IAS and pets
- Bern Convention Code of Conduct on IAS and zoos
- Summary of Views - EU Strategy on Invasive Alien Species
- Eurogroup’s comments at Standing Committee 32 on code for IAS and zoos (November 2012)
- Eurogroup’s comments at Standing Committee 31 on code for IAS and pets (November 2011)
- Eurogroup's briefing on EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 (May 2011)
- Summary brief of Health Risks from New Companion Animals report (October 2011)
- Report: Health Risks from New Companion Animals (October 2011)
- Comments to European Commission on IAS Strategy (September 2010)