Invasive aliens have potential to cause serious damage

By Jim Hurley - Nature Trail

Published 20/08/2016 | 00:00

The Grey Squirrel
The Grey Squirrel

The European Union has taken action against invasive aliens by declaring war on 37 species comprised of 23 animals and 14 plants. The wanted list came into force on 3rd August.

Under EU Regulation 2016/1141, Member States now have to start implementing measures to control unwanted aliens. As far as Ireland is concerned, the Grey Squirrel is the most high-profile species that we have on the wanted list.

Aliens are non-native animals and plants that are brought, either deliberately or accidentally, into an area where they are not normally found. Invasive ones are aliens that have the potential to cause serious damage.

The damages that invasive aliens can cause are threefold. First, they can cause major biodiversity loss, sometimes even the extinction of native species. Second, they can transmit new disease to humans. And third, they can cause economic damage, for example, farm crop losses and infrastructure damage.

The problem is growing. New invasive alien species are coming into Europe with increased international trade and travel. Climate change may make matters even worse.

What the EU is now implementing is a set of measures to prevent new invasive alien species from entering the EU and to deal more effectively with the ones that are already established here.

Under the new Regulation all Member States must take action on a list of 37 invasive alien species of Union concern. The Regulation foresees three types of interventions; prevention, early detection and rapid eradication, and management.

If they work as planned, the new measures will benefit everyone: a major threat to our native wildlife will be addressed, there will be better protection from health hazards, and there will be less damage to property, farmers, animal breeders, fisheries, forestry firms and the tourism and leisure industries.

What exactly will change? There will be a complete ban on importing, selling, growing, using and releasing the most problematic invasive alien species. To enforce the ban, EU member countries will have to organise border checks and introduce a surveillance system to detect banned species. They will also need to put in place measures to detect those species that come into Europe accidentally.

When EU countries detect the presence of a banned species, they will have to take immediate action to stop the species from spreading. For banned species that are already widely spread, like the Grey Squirrel in Ireland, EU countries will need to put in place measures to keep them under control.

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