Government urged to ensure proper funding to tackle invasive species

Sinn Féin MEP fears EU regulation may be poorly implemented as alien list expanded

Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan: “Invasive species not only damage or destroy biodiversity but they also impact on tourism and fisheries.” Photograph: David Sleator

Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan: “Invasive species not only damage or destroy biodiversity but they also impact on tourism and fisheries.” Photograph: David Sleator

 

The Government must ensure proper funding and resources to tackle invasive alien species (IAS) following the expansion of an EU-wide list of such animals and plants, an Irish MEP has said.

New requirements under the 2015 EU regulation on invasive species came into force on Thursday. The list includes plants such as giant hogweed, Indian balsam, American skunk cabbage and water hyacinth, and animals such as the small Asian mongoose, the muskrat, the raccoon, the grey squirrel and the spiny-cheek crayfish.

The regulation aims to address the problems caused by such species in a comprehensive manner so as to protect native biodiversity and ecosystems, as well as to minimise and mitigate the human health or economic impacts that these species can have.

Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan, who raised concerns two years ago about the “alarming pace” of reinfestation of Killarney National Park with the invasive rhododendron plant, said the expansion of the list was a “welcome development”.

The main criticism of the 2015 regulation had been the brevity of the list, she said.

“It is still by no means comprehensive enough but any expansion is to be welcomed.”

Ms Boylan said her concern regarding its application in Ireland was that it would be poorly implemented.

Alien species

“In order for invasive alien species to be effectively targeted, it will have to be properly funded and resourced. This has not been the case in recent years regarding the invasive species of rhododendron ponticum,” she said.

A formal complaint was made by the voluntary group Groundwork to the European Commission highlighting concerns that protected native oak woodlands in Killarney National Park that had been clear of rhododendron for 20 years were now reinfested.

Ms Boylan noted that while the allegation several years ago had been disputed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the evidence submitted by Groundwork had been supplemented by an updated summary of evidence presented in January 2017.

“Rhododendron is not included in the EU list of IAS, but it is included on the Irish National List of IAS,” Ms Boylan said.

“Therefore implementation of this EU regulation can under no circumstances be used as an excuse by the Irish Government to divert what limited funding there is for rhododendron clearance to other projects dealing with species on the EU list.”

She said local authorities here should also work with environmental organisations to support them in accessing EU funding to tackle invasive species.

Local economy

“Invasive species not only damage or destroy biodiversity but they also impact on tourism and fisheries. By supporting local organisations and environmental NGOs through the daunting EU funding application process, the local authority will not only be protecting the environment but also the local economy.”

The Dublin MEP said the implications of Brexit on the implementation of the regulation should also be monitored.

“Britain will no longer have to comply with this regulation and while they have assured the British public that environmental standards will not slip, who will be the judge of that and environmental protection will be open to change every election.

“Under the Good Friday [Belfast] Agreement, Inland Waterways Ireland manage the shared waterways on the island of Ireland. Assurances must be sought by the Irish Government that implementation and funding for invasive species control on our waterways is maintained post Brexit.”

The National Biodiversity Data Centre maintains a “citizen science portal” through which members of the public may report sightings of species, including invasive species.