Tackling Invasive Alien Species

Non-EU native animals, plants, fungi and micro-organisms will become the subject of border checks and surveillance measures if the new rules proposed by the European Commission are adopted. In fact, the 50 most problematic non-EU native species will be banned from import, growing, use, release or marketing in the EU.

Alien species can be brought into a non-native habitat deliberately or unintentionally, but either way the potential ecological damage is the same. The increasing numbers of invasive alien species (12,000 currently in the EU), the importance of international trade and travel and the limited effectiveness of measures at national level have led the Commission to present, yesterday, a proposal for a Regulation on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species.

This proposal is the first of its kind insofar as it sets out for the first time comprehensive rules, at EU-level, to address the threat of Invasive Alien Species.

The Commission proposal is based on the principle of prioritisation and sets out a threefold plan of action: A. prevention (Chapter 2), B. early warning and rapid response (Chapter 3), and C. management of Invasive Alien Species (Chapter 4).

Prioritisation:

The proposal announces that a list will be created which will include the most important invasive alien species for the whole of the EU (called “list of invasive alien species of Union concern”). The list would be adopted by the Commission as an implementing act based on scientific evidence and risk assessments and would contain 50 species maximum.

Special measures would apply for the listed priority species. Most importantly, IAS included in that list would be banned from the EU; they should not be imported, marketed, used, kept or released. Certain derogations to the ban may apply, e.g. for research purposes or ex-situ conservation of IAS. Special transitional measures would be taken to deal with issues arising for traders, breeders or pet owners.

Apart from IAS of Union concern, Member States could ban activities that concern IAS that are of national concern (invasive alien species of Member State concern).

1. Prevention:

Member States would need to organise border checks to prevent the intentional introduction of species of EU concern. They would be also required to identify how IAS are unintentionally introduced and to draw up action plans to address these pathways.

Official surveillance systems should be also put in place by Member States to assist to the detection of banned species, collect and record data on IAS, and evaluate the effectiveness of measures.

More coordination between Member States and Member States and the Commission would also contribute to the prevention of introduction of IAS on the EU territory.

2. Early Warning and Rapid Response:

In case scientific evidence indicates that an IAS has been introduced in the EU, Member States would be able to introduce emergency measures, including bans, to stop the species from spreading. The Commission could adopt Union-level emergency measures, if that is judged appropriate. A subsequent g risk assessment would show whether that IAS should be included on the list of EU priority species.

For banned species that are becoming established, Member States should notify other Member States as well as the Commission and take immediate action to eradicate them.

3. Management of Widely Spread IAS:

Some IAS of EU concern are already spread. For these species, EU countries would need to put in place measures to keep them under control, 1 year after the compilation of the list of IAS of Union concern at the latest. Such management measures could be established jointly by neighbouringMember States.

Member States should also apply restoration measures for the recovery of the damaged –by the IAS- ecosystem.

According to the proposal, Member States would be responsible for defining effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions in case the rules of this proposed Regulation are breached.

The rules set out in the proposal will be coupled with an information support mechanism, the European Alien Species Information Network, which will facilitate the application of the Regulation.

Next Steps

This proposal for a Regulation will now go to the European Parliament and Council with a view to adoption under the ordinary legislative procedure (former co-decision).

The proposal is likely to come into effect in 2016.