Non-native and invasive species

The importance of the threat of invasive 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.


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


On September 29th, 2014, the European Council adopted a Regulation on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species [2013/0307 (COD)]. 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 alien invasive species of Union concern – reviewed every 6 years (list of 37 species published July, 2016)
  • Member States can request for inclusion of a species based on risk assessment
  • Functioning structures for Official controls (border controls, goods entry points) by 02/01/2016
  • Surveillance system by January 15th, 2018
  • Pathway analysis by January 15th, 2018 and pathway action plans by July 15th, 2019
  • Early detection issue of alert notification to Commission and other Member States
  • Rapid eradication in place within 3 months after alert notification.
  • Management measures put in place for widely spread species by 4th February, 2018
  • Restoration of damaged ecosystems undertaken [proportionate]
  • Reporting (by 3 years*) and every 4 years* thereafter on – surveillance system, distribution of species, action plans etc.

* Time from when the Regulations came into effect 01/01/2015.


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



In 2011, the Republic of Ireland’s Actions for Biodiversity 2011-2016, Ireland’s 2nd National Biodiversity Plan was launched with 7 objectives, 21 targets and multiple actions.

Target 8 states that:

Harmful invasive alien species are controlled and there is reduced risk of spread of new species.

There are 5 supporting actions listed for this under this target:

  • Prepare, by 2011, detailed species and pathway risk assessments and develop exclusion and contingency plans for priority pathways and high impact species that are likely to invade Ireland.
  • Continue and enhance measures for eradication, where feasible, control and containment of invasive alien species.
  • Examine options for rapid response when new invasive alien species are discovered.
  • Increase awareness within the horticultural and constructed wetlands industries of native alternatives that can be used in place of invasive alien species.
  • All public bodies will endeavour to use native species, landraces and breeds and the public will be encouraged to do so.


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

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

Print this page in Pdf