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January 29, 2014

The Need for EU Legislation on Invasive Alien Species

Humane Society International

  • A mink can be problematic in its non-native environment. Heather Fone/THE HSUS

In September 2013, the European Commission adopted a proposal for an EU Regulation on the control and management of ‘invasive alien species’. This legislation has significant implications for animal welfare and could, amongst other things, lead to restrictions on the trade of various exotic pet species.

HSI has been working to ensure that this legislative proposal is significantly improved by the European Parliament and Council.

What are Invasive Alien Species?

Invasive Alien Species are non-native animals or plants that have been introduced to environments where they are not usually found, either accidentally or deliberately. American mink, rose-ringed parakeets and raccoons are prime examples in Europe.

Why are IAS considered to be a problem?

IAS threaten biodiversity of native animals and plants through competing for resources, habitat alteration and degradation, being toxic, acting as a reservoir for parasites or a vector for pathogens, hybridising with related species or varieties, predating on native organisms, or altering local food webs.

Within the EU, damage attributed to IAS is estimated at more than €12 billion each year and it potentially costs many more millions to remove IAS from the environment or reduce their impact.

What are the main routes of introduction?

Some IAS are brought into the EU intentionally (e.g. exotic pets and plants), while others are introduced unintentionally (e.g. as contaminants of goods, as hitchhikers or stowaways in transport vectors or through international travel).

The global ‘exotic’ pet trade is a significant source of IAS. For example, red-eared terrapins have become established in many EU countries as unwanted pets released into the wild, and rose-ringed parakeets, after escaping from captivity.

The fur industry has also been a pathway for various invasive species, such as American mink, raccoon dogs, muskrats and coypu.

HSI’s position in brief

This proposed legislation seeks to identify and prioritise IAS pathways and species and to prevent invasion by non-native species. HSI believes that the most cost-effective way to deal with such species is to prevent them from entering the EU and, if already present, to prevent them from being released or escaping into the environment.

Some of the key issues that HSI is urging the European Parliament and Council to address when considering and amending the Commission’s legislative proposal:

  • If control of invasive species is deemed to be necessary, this should only be as a last resort and only humane methods should be used.
  • The Commission has arbitrarily proposed capping a ‘list of invasive species of Union concern’ at 50 species. We are calling for the list to be open, constantly revised and kept up to date according to the best available science.
  • The list should not just include individual species, but must also reflect groups of species with similar ecological requirements to prevent the exotic pet trade from switching from a listed species to a similar non-listed species.
  • HSI is opposing attempts to introduce derogations such as the exclusion of fur farming, since these would weaken the uniformity and effectiveness of the legislation.
  • In the case of invasive species that have become established in the wild as a result of escaped or deliberately released exotic pets, the exotic pet trade should be responsible for the costs of remedial action.
  • A scientific body to assess which species should be included on any list of Union concerns should include both scientific experts and NGO stakeholders with expertise in animal protection, conservation and welfare.
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