Europe and Central Asia
4 Nov 2014

The aliens among us

American Mink © GBNNSS
By Carles Carboneras

The new EU Regulation against Invasive Alien Species enters into force. Now the fight moves onto the list of forbidden species. The Danish fur industry, the German biofuel sector and the Hungarian honey producers will lobby hard not to have their product included. 

The EU has finally adopted its Regulation on invasive alien species (IAS), which will enter into force on 1st January 2015. BirdLife successfully managed to influence the text so that it can deliver on conservation, and we are quite satisfied with the result.

However, the new legislation will only apply to a list of species of EU concern, so we need to make sure that the list is adequate and representative, both geographically and taxonomically. Species on the list will be banned from trade, keeping, breeding or release into the environment. Additionally, Member States will have to develop Action plans for the priority pathways of unintentional introduction, and to put in place a system of border controls.

Unfortunately we hear that the European Commission may be proposing a non-ambitious list of 50-80 species, and that highly controversial species (such as predatory American mink or economically-important Black locust tree) will be kept out of the list. In the lead-up to the adoption of the Regulation, the main opposition came from the Danish fur industry, the German biofuel sector and Hungarian honey producers. The same groups, plus the industries that import live organisms (horticulture, pet trade) are expected to lobby strongly against listing of their favoured species. However, we defend a science-based approach where environmental impact is given enough attention; we think that a list of minimum 200 species should be finalised to tackle 10% of the problematic species in the EU.

The Commission will publish its proposal, to be agreed with the Member States, in early 2016. We will try to influence the listing process because species that are not on the EU list will remain free to be traded, transported, bred or released without restrictions, and the list will likely not be reviewed until 2021. Therefore, BirdLife Europe and RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) will be organising a series of workshops in 2015 to develop a priority list of invasive alien species.

This will be an opportunity for the Partnership to highlight those species with the greatest current or future impacts on biodiversity; therefore, the participation of all will be key to our success. Stay tuned!

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.