Non-native and invasive alien species

The importance of the threat of invasive alien species is reflected in a suite of international, European and national policy and legislation. Brief details on a selection of some of the more pertinent policy and legislation is given, it is not a comprehensive listing.


The Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at their tenth meeting set out a Strategic Plan for Biodiversity with 20 headline targets for 2020 organized under five strategic goals. The mission of the Strategic Plan is to ―take effective and urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity in order to ensure that by 2020 ecosystems are resilient and continue to provide essential services, thereby securing the planet‘s variety of life, and contributing to human well-being, and poverty eradication.  Target 9 states:

By 2020, invasive alien species and pathways are identified and prioritized, priority species are controlled or eradicated, and measures are in place to manage pathways to prevent their introduction and establishment.


EU biodiversity strategy

The European Commission also adopted an ambitious new strategy to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020. The ‘Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020’ contains six main targets, and 20 actions to help Europe reach its goal. Target 5 covers: Tighter controls on invasive alien species.  It is further stated as being:

By 2020, Invasive Alien Species (IAS) and their pathways are identified and prioritized, priority species are controlled or eradicated, and pathways are managed to prevent the introduction and establishment of new IAS.

This target is support by two specific actions:

Action 15: Strengthen the EU Plant and Animal Health Regimes – The Commission will integrate additional biodiversity concerns into the Plant and Animal Health regimes by 2012.

Action 16: Establish a dedicated instrument on Invasive Alien Species – The Commission will fill policy gaps in combating IAS by developing a dedicated legislative instrument by 2012.

View: EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020


EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation

On September 29th, 2014, the European Council adopted a Regulation on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species [1143/2014]. The Regulation, that is a binding legal tool for all Member States, entered into force  January 1st 2015. The Regulation lays down rules to prevent, minimise and mitigate the adverse impacts of the introduction and spread, both intentional and unintentional, of invasive alien species on biodiversity and the related ecosystem services, as well as other adverse impact on human health or the economy.

There will be a phased introduction of the requirements. Some milestones and key elements are listed below:

  • List of Invasive Alien Species of Union concern – reviewed every 6 years (current list of 88 species).
  • Member States can request for inclusion of a species based on risk assessment
  • Functioning structures for Official controls (border controls, goods entry points)
  • Surveillance system
  • Pathway analysis followed by pathway action plans for priority pathways
  • Early detection issue of alert notification to Commission and other Member States
  • Rapid eradication in place within 3 months after alert notification (If possible/feasible).
  • Management measures put in place for widely spread species
  • Restoration of damaged ecosystems undertaken [proportionate]
  • Reporting (June 1st 2019) and every 6 years thereafter on – surveillance system, distribution of species, action plans etc.

For more information visit: Invasive species of Union concern –

View Regulation:


Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD)

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive [DIRECTIVE 2008/56/EC]  came into force on 17 June 2008. The  Directive aims to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) of the EU’s marine waters by 2020 and to protect the resource base upon which marine-related economic and social activities depend.  In order to achieve its goal, the Directive establishes European marine regions (the Baltic Sea, the North-east Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea) and sub-regions on the basis of geographical and environmental criteria.

In order to achieve GES by 2020, each Member State is required to develop a strategy for its marine waters (or Marine Strategy) to be reviewed every 6 years. The MSFD does not state a specific programme of measures that Member States should adopt to achieve GES, except for the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The MSFD does however outline 11 high level descriptors of GES in Annex I of the Directive.

Descriptor 2 relates to non-native also known as non-indigenous species: Non-indigenous species introduced by human activities are at levels that do not adversely alter the ecosystems

More information on the Marine Directive:

Ireland’s Article 19 report (October 2013):,34365,en.pdf


National Biodiversity Action Plan

In October 2017, Ireland’s 3rd National Biodiversity Action Plan, for the period 2017-2021 was launched with 7 objectives supported by 119 targeted actions. The Plan sets out actions through which a range of government, civil and private sectors will undertake to achieve Ireland’s ‘Vision for Biodiversity’, and follows on from the work of the first and second National Biodiversity Action Plans.

Target 4.4 states that ‘Harmful invasive alien species are controlled and there is reduced risk of introduction and/or spread of new species.’ This is supported by 7 actions:

4.4.1. Ratify the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments

4.4.2. Develop national and whole island plans to implement the EU Invasive Alien Species (IAS) Regulation and relevant sections of Ireland’s EU (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 including: development and adoption of biosecurity plans in relevant state bodies; a Rapid Response Protocol for the island of Ireland; coordination and collation of invasive species surveillance and monitoring data; and work with Northern Ireland and UK authorities on invasive species of mutual concern.

4.4.3. Continue and enhance measures for eradication, where feasible, control and containment of invasive species

4.4.4. Encourage horticultural nurseries to produce native species, varieties and landraces from appropriate native sources for public and private sector plantings. Public bodies will endeavour to plant native species in order to reduce importation of non-native species, varieties and landraces.

4.4.5. Continue to produce Risk Assessments for potentially invasive non-native species.

4.4.6. Publish legislation to address required provisions under the EU Regulation on invasive alien species (No. 1143/2014) and on responsibilities and powers regarding invasive alien species, giving IFI responsibility for aquatic invasive species.

4.4.7 Work with horticultural and pet trades to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive alien species.

For more information and to download the National Biodiversity Action Plan see National Parks and Wildlife Service website:


European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011

In September 2011, comprehensive regulations which address deficiencies in Irish law implementing the EU Birds and Habitats Directives were signed into law. The European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 contain important new provisions to address the problem of invasive species.  A black list of unwanted species is set out in the Regulations. It will be an offence without a licence, to release or allow to disperse or escape, to breed, propagate, import, transport, sell or advertise such species. Two regulations that deal specifically with these scheduled lists of species are:

Regulation 49: Prohibition on introduction and dispersal of certain species [view slide]

Regulation 50: Prohibition on dealing in and keeping certain species (Regulation 50 is not yet in effect) [view slide]

View the Third Schedule list of the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 [S.I.477/2011] – view the 76 listed species

View the full European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 [SI. 477]

If you have any queries on the above policy or legislation please e-mail [email protected]  and we will try to provide additional information or clarification. Otherwise, contact National Parks and Wildlife Service


SI 354/2018, the European Union (Invasive Alien Species) (Freshwater Crayfish) Regulations 2018

In November 2018, the European Union (Invasive Alien Species) (Freshwater Crayfish) Regulations 2018 were announced. These regulations that will help strengthen existing measures protecting the native White-clawed crayfish, particularly with regard to the importation of non-native species of crayfish.

The regulations (attached), targets the introduction of several species of non-native crayfish which have been included on the EU list of invasive alien species of Union concern (‘the Union list’).

View the press release issued by the NPWS: New regulations to protect native freshwater crayfish –

Read the full S.I. No. 354/2018 – European Union (Invasive Alien Species) (Freshwater Crayfish) Regulations 2018 (