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April 16, 2014

EU Parliament Approves New Invasive Alien Species Regulation

Fur trade lobbying creates possible loophole for American mink; grey squirrel, ruddy duck, American bullfrog prime candidates for EU alien blacklist

Humane Society International

  • Heather Fone/The HSUS

The European Parliament has approved a first reading agreement on the proposed new European Union Regulation on invasive alien species. While the agreement receives cautious welcome from Humane Society International for including many of its animal welfare recommendations, HSI is disappointed that fur industry lobbying has created a potential loophole for American mink, one of the most aggressively invasive alien species in the EU.

The new legislation aims to prevent or manage the spread of non-native flora and fauna in the EU, including species such as the grey squirrel, ruddy duck, American bullfrog and red-eared terrapin. The European Commission estimates that damage from such invasive alien species costs the EU more than €12 billion each year.

Humane Society International’s EU Director, Joanna Swabe, said: “The new Invasive Alien Species regulation agreed at First Reading has much to celebrate in terms of animal welfare. Although a rushed pre-election legislative timetable means it is not as ambitious as we would have liked, we are delighted that our call for non-lethal removal methods has been included. We also welcome the proposed regulation’s acknowledgement that the impact on non-target species should be minimised. The legislation also will help to curtail the exotic pet trade that has created a significant pathway for the accidental or intentional release of invasive species.

“It is disappointing, however, that negotiators bowed to pressure by the mink fur farming industry in certain Member States. Despite the fact that escaped American mink from EU fur farms are voracious predators and a serious biodiversity threat, producing unethical fur fashion products has been prioritised over protecting EU native species and habitats. The legislation includes a permitting system that will allow commercial activities such as fur farming involving invasive alien species to continue under a strict system of authorisation. So if American mink are ever listed as a species of Union concern, the fur industry can continue business as usual.

“We are pleased that the Parliament and Council have heeded our calls to allow the listing of taxonomic groups of species with similar ecological requirements. This will prevent the exotic pet trade simply switching from a listed to a similar but unlisted species.”  

The Council of Environment must formally approve the Regulation approved by the European Parliament and will enter into force during the course of 2015.


  • Invasive alien species threaten biodiversity because they compete with native species for resources, alter and degrade habitats, are toxic, act as a reservoir for parasites or a vector for pathogens, hybridise with related species or varieties, predate on native organisms or alter local food webs.
  • The legislation takes a three-tiered hierarchical approach to dealing with invasive alien species across the EU: 1) prevention; 2) early detection and rapid removal; 3) long-term management and control.
  • It will become illegal to keep, breed, transport, sell or deliberately release into the environment any invasive alien species deemed to be of Union concern.
  • The European Commission’s original proposal for an arbitrary cap of just 50 species on the list of invasive species of Union concern was rejected by the European Parliament and Council. HSI believes the list should be open and constantly revised based on the best available science. The seven species that are currently listed on Annex B of Regulation (EC) No 338/97 (i.e. the grey squirrel, Pallas’ squirrel, fox squirrel, ruddy duck, red-eared terrapin, painted turtle and American bullfrog) are considered as a matter of priority for listing as invasive alien species of Union concern.
  • Despite heavy lobbying from certain Member States, national derogations have not been included in the legislation. Attempts to include a derogation for so-called ‘incapables’ (i.e. species supposedly not capable of becoming established, or of causing harm in one country, despite evidence in other countries) were also thwarted.
  • HSI has consistently called for on any invasive alien species legislation to prioritise prevention and to ensure the humane treatment for of already established populations.


Media contact: Wendy Higgins: +44 (0)7989 972 423, whiggins@hsi.org

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