Invasive Alien Species: the solutions seminar

A special interactive seminar took place at the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday 24 January to discuss the management of invasive alien species in the EU ) – today and in the future.

MEPs joined European hunters, anglers, landowners and other conservationists to share ideas and knowledge and together find the concrete actions that we can take in order to achieve the related targets of the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020, where tackling invasive alien species has been identified as key. Under the patronage of MEP Robert Sturdy, some 50 participants gathered, including various Commission representatives as well as MEPs Véronique Mathieu (France), Markus Pieper (Germany), Ioan Enciu (Romania), and key interventions from the European Anglers’ Alliance (EAA), the European Squirrel Initiative (ESI), the Australian Embassy, the European Landowners Organization (ELO) and FACE who shared their positions briefly and joined the European Commission’s Valentina Bastino and the MEPs in driving the discussion.

MEP Robert Sturdy, Chair of the Seminar says: “Invasive Alien Species are not only clear and present dangers to European biodiversity, their effects are felt by our rural communities and it is thought that they cost the EU billions of Euros every year. It is very important that we recognise the scale of the threat and deal with it accordingly. “

Invasive Alien Species, with their ability to out compete and devastate local biodiversity, have been recognised as one of the major threats to global biodiversity and their control is addressed in both the Global Aichi Targets and the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy. As part of this commitment the EU is currently exploring options for EU policies to deal with the issue of Invasive Alien Species. 

This exceptional exchange was prompted by the fundamental decisions taking place at the moment in the EU for invasive alien species. FACE is already turning words and targets into actions through its Biodiversity Manifesto - with its 34 clear actions for the hunting community, it states that FACE and its Members will communicate to hunters the necessity to identify, control and avoid the introduction of alien animal and plant species – further to this though, hunters can be deployed as agents of management for established invasive alien species, with benefits including their practical knowledge, experience and the economic advantages of their voluntary aid for this key aspect of nature conservation.

 “Hunters can be part of the solution mainly through early warning systems” says FACE’s Chief Executive Angus Middleton, “FACE are careful to point out that hunters are not simply killers and that it takes a lot of clear communication to try and get hunters to eradicate a species, which they would instinctively aim to conserve.  With regards to prevention FACE wants to avoid that lists become exceedingly prohibitive as the majority of alien species are not invasive and many are of significant economic importance.”

The European Commission’s Valentina Bastino noted that “we must rely on the eyes and ears of those on the ground. In particular, actors with privileged access to nature, such as hunters” – particularly as coordination efforts are key. Bastino pointed out that of all the species registered in Europe, 10-15% are invasive and alluded to the stronger measures introduced in third countries such as Australia.
Indeed, Russell Phillips, Minister-Counsellor for Agriculture from the Australian Embassy outlined the Australian strategy of cooperation at all levels, developing agreements with national bodies, regional governments based in the principle of shared responsibility, where compensation costs are clear. Phillips recommended that “time is of the essence” regarding the success of any  action at early detection or risk stages.
Andrew Kendall from the European Squirrel Initiative based in the UK encouraged government to make stronger efforts when dealing with invasive alien species, and noted that gaining public support was key to success.

Pierre Crahay, Project manager at ELO, underlines that: “The issue of invasive alien species is very complex. We should be careful not to adopt an inflexible binding legal framework at the EU level which is a risk being counterproductive as this is a highly sensitive problem which varies greatly between Member States. Land managers are the best custodians of EU biodiversity and with sufficient means and corresponding support can assure both prevention and management of invasive alien species. It would be more cost efficient to support the on-going work which land managers have already begun as well as long term private initiatives such as the Wildlife Estates project which contributes on a voluntary basis to solving the problem of invasive alien species.”

Mark Owen of the European Anglers’ Alliance states: “Invasive Alien Species are one of the biggest threats to angling we currently face. Angling is a sport that is enjoyed by 25 million anglers throughout Europe and generates 25 billion Euros a year for the economy. We desperately need politicians to take this threat seriously and act accordingly in partnership with anglers”.

This range of recommendations and interests ensured a rigourous overview of a complex area of European nature policy which will require, above all, collaborative coordination for the betterment of biodiversity.

See the poster, look at the photos & download the press release on our Materials page (EN, FR, DE).