Federal actions include defining the measures to prevent the introduction of invasive species in Belgium. These measures are both legal in nature and also relate to communication to the public.
The law of 12 July 1973 on the conservation of nature
Since July 2012, more precise provisions are supervising the federal system.
Five specific targets have in fact been added to the law of 12 July 1973 on the conservation of nature. These are the following new items:
- To specify that the King may suspend and prohibit the import, export and transit of invasive alien species and to submit their authorisation for approval, registration or pre-notification;
- Possibility for the State to sign sectorial agreements with companies involved in the spread of non-native species;
- Possibility for the King to establish an Advisory Council to advise on the import, export and transit of non-native plant and animal species, including the IAS;
- Updating of provisions for criminal penalties that have been increased;
- Introduction of the possibility to apply administrative penalties in case of infringement;
- Updating provisions for qualified personnel to monitor the implementation of the law and its executing decrees for the part relating to the import, export and transit:
- agents of the FPS Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment [formerly: agents appointed by the Minister of Agriculture]
- customs [new]
- Federal and local police [formerly: constabulary, “Gendarmerie”]
The DG Environment of the FPS Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment is working to implement the new provisions of the law on nature conservation. Specifically, the DG is seeking to identify the species that may be subject to measures regulating their import, export and transit.
Public awareness actions
In order to increase public awareness, the Environment DG of the FPS Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment is increasing its communication campaigns. The Directorate General is distributing precise and detailed information about the risks that these species represent to biodiversity. Increasing public awareness is taking the first step towards preventing these invasions.
Invasive aquatic plants
SPF and the Biodiversity Platform launched the "invasive aquatic plants" brochure that helps you recognise the main aquatic plants which pose a threat to the environment as well as the alternative species that may be used without fear to the biodiversity.
Fun and educational brochure
A brochure for the general public, 'SOS Invasions' (FR) (.PDF), presented in the form of a range of measures to be distributed on a large scale. It explains the phenomenon and shows the commonest species in Belgium.
A study day
In addition, a study day entitled “SOS Invasions (WEB)” was held in Brussels on the initiative of the main Belgian parties. During this event, the most recent results of studies performed in Belgium were discussed by experts and policy decision-makers.
Finally, during 2008, the DG is intending to carry out large-scale consultations with the horticultural sector. A round table will give the sector the chance to air its problems and define its needs in the battle against the proliferation of these species. The aim is also obviously to determine concrete ways of taking action to prevent the introduction of invasive exotic species into Belgium and their propagation here.
This resulted in the code of conduct ALTERIAS. Since then, an increasing number of growers have been offering their customers various awareness publications.
What can we do on a daily basis?
Whatever the motivation driving the voluntary introduction of a new species into Belgium, the first question to be asked is whether there is an alternative from within the indigenous biodiversity.
Finally, to contribute to reducing the threat of biological invasions, we can also do the following:
- avoid acquiring exotic domestic animals, and if such an acquisition has already been made, hand the animal over to a specialist establishment when you are no longer able to look after it;
- do not dump garden waste or the products of pond cleaning in natural areas
- do not bring back plants or animals from trips abroad (the export of some species is forbidden elsewhere by an international convention: CITES (WEB), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
There are also indirect means of taking action, such as limiting numbers of trips and preferably consuming local products which require less transportation.
And make sure that you tell your friends and colleagues about the risks associated with invasive exotic species and the methods that can be implemented to reduce these risks.