Invasive alien species

Non-native species are those that have been introduced, either intentionally or unintentionally, outside their natural range. Many of these non-native species live in harmony with our native species causing no adverse impacts. However a few non-native species have become known as ‘invasive’ as they thrive in our habitats and out-compete our native flora and fauna.

Impact on the environment

Non-native invasive species are also known as invasive alien species.
They are widely recognised as one of the biggest threats to our native biodiversity, second only to that caused by habitat destruction. They not only have negative environmental impacts, but they can also adversely impact on recreational activities such as walking, boating, fishing, swimming and various other water-based leisure pursuits.

They can also have serious associated economic costs. Once an invasive species has established within a habitat it can spread rapidly, out-competing native species.The spread of most invasive plant species is by plant fragments or seed. 

Invertebrates or mammals can move independently within aquatic or terrestrial habitats or hitch rides on the hulls of boats or on equipment. 

Northern Ireland has been subject to the impacts of many invasive alien species. Within a relatively short time-scale we have already witnessed the establishment of species which are currently having a detrimental effect upon our local biodiversity.

An Invasive Alien Species Strategy for Northern Ireland

In response to the threats posed by invasive alien species the Department of Environment has published ‘An Invasive Alien Species Strategy for Northern Ireland’. The aim of the Strategy is to minimise the risk posed, and reduce the negative impacts caused, by invasive alien species in Northern Ireland, increasing awareness and understanding of the risks and issues involved in tackling invasive alien species is a central overarching issue.

EU Regulation on Invasive Alien Species

In November 2014 the European Union published a new Regulation (EU) 1143/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species.

The EU Regulation came into force on 1 January 2015 and addresses the problem of certain European wide invasive alien species in a comprehensive manner. It aims to establish a more consistent approach to tackling those invasive alien species.

A core provision of the EU Regulation is a list of invasive alien species of Union concern (‘the Union list’), which are species whose potential adverse impacts across the European Union are such that concerted action across Europe is required.

The first Union list of 37 species (14 plants and 23 animals) was adopted on 4 December 2015 and came into force on 3 August 2016.

The first update of the Union list which added a further 12 species (9 plants and 3 animals) was adopted on 12 July 2017 and enters into force on 2  August 2017.

The second update of the Union list which added a further 17 species (13 plants and 4 animals) was adopted on 25 July 2019 and entered into force on 15 August 2019.

In addition to the general FAQ which the Commission has published on its website, the UK has also produced its own FAQ for UK stakeholders which can be found on the GB Non Native Species Secretariat website.

The Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order (Northern Ireland) 2019

In line with Defra, and the other devolved administrations, the Department has introduced new domestic legislation to fulfil its obligations under the EU Regulation

The Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order (Northern Ireland) 2019 makes provision for criminal offences relating to breaches of requirements of the EU Regulation.

Part 2 of the 2019 Order contains criminal offences, which include breach of the main restrictions in the EU Regulation, as well as ancillary offences; - for example relating to false statements, attempts to commit offences and obstruction. It also contains provisions relating to offences by bodies corporate, partnerships and unincorporated associations. Parts 3 and 4 contain defences to those offences and penalties respectively. Penalties are set to be consistent with similar penalties contained in existing legislation relating to non-native species. Part 5 sets out enforcement powers available to the Department and authorised persons who will enforce the Order. Part 6 provides for the issue of permits in accordance with Articles 8 and 9 of the EU Regulation. Part 7 contains licensing provisions which may be issued for a number of different activities, provided specific conditions are met. Permits and licenses will be issued by the Department. Part 8 contains provisions ensuring the Order works alongside related legislation and avoids duplication of controls between similar regimes were possible.

Any companion animal of a listed species that was kept before it was included on the EU list may continue to be kept in secure accommodation, as long as it is not able to breed until the end of its natural life.

The Order comes into operation on 1st December 2019.

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