The fight against invasive alien species (IAS) is one of the six priorities of the European Biodiversity Strategy: "Biodiversity, our life insurance and our cultural capital - EU Strategy 2020" (2011).
Target 5 in fact provides that between now and 2020:
- the IAS and their pathways must be identified and handled on a priority basis;
- the main species are controlled or eradicated, and pathways are controlled to prevent the introduction and establishment of new species.
These species in fact contribute to the loss of European biodiversity and the degradation of the ecosystem services that it provides. How? For example, by entering into competition with the native species (indigenous/native species) for food or for the use of the natural habitat but also by feeding or by hybridising with them. Diversity of the native species is thereby reduced, particularly in terms of genetic diversity.
In addition to the purely environmental aspect, the IAS also cause major economic damage currently estimated at €12.5 billion per year for the European Union only. They can cause direct economic losses in certain sectors such as agriculture, aquaculture, fishing or forestry, through, for example, the introduction of diseases. Their control and elimination may also result in significant costs that must be borne collectively by the society. The elimination of the American grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) in Great Britain annually costs 200,000 pounds, or about 240,000 Euros.
A consistent and coherent European action
It is therefore essential to be able to act on the introduction of the IAS not as yet present in the European territory but also manage those that are already present on European soil.
This is the objective pursued by Regulation (EU) No 1143/2014 which came into force in the European Union in January 2015.
This regulation sets out the rules intended to prevent, minimise and limit the destructive effects on biodiversity of the introduction and propagation of invasive alien species considered to be of concern in the Member States of the Union.
The “concerning” character of an invasive alien species is determined after an evaluation of the risks carried out according to objective criteria. These scientific studies are generally carried out by the Member States even though the European Commission may also carry them out under the terms of the Regulation.