German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)



Measures to reduce anthropogenic introduction

Numerous initiatives to reduce the threat to indigenous flora and fauna from invasive species have been launched since 1996. These include the Global Invasive Species Program (GISP) and the German NEOBIOTA working group. International coordination is essential in this context because it is a global issue. Since October 2014 there has also been a new EU regulation on the subject:

Importance of precaution

The main line of defence against the introduction of new species is precaution. Under the Ballast Water Convention, for example, all merchant vessels must have ballast water management processes by 2016. Until then, ballast water tanks must be discharged at least 200 nautical miles from the nearest land and in water at least 200 m in depth. This is to reduce the introduction of species and their planktonic larvae in the interim. A further measure intended to prevent the spread of alien ‘hitchhikers’ in indigenous waters is thorough treatment of farmed fish in aquaculture that have been imported from elsewhere.

If a potentially dangerous newcomer is in the process of becoming established in a region, an early warning system aims to help prevent further spread by means of emergency action.

Before any action is taken, however, any newly introduced species should be subjected to verifiable assessment to find out if it does actually pose a threat to indigenous marine life. Constant exchange of knowledge between biologists about the ways of life of species in their home regions is important when it comes to predicting the chances of successful establishment elsewhere.

It has to be remembered, however, that timely identification and combat of invasive alien species is far harder in aquatic ecosystems than on land. Most larval stages are invisible to the naked eye, and when a new marine species is first seen it may already be too late to stop it from spreading. If effective control is still feasible, it will probably be highly cost-intensive. Effective precaution – i.e. reducing anthropogenic introduction – is thus the best way of protecting our indigenous flora and fauna.

BfN has funded the monitoring of establishment rates of non-indigenous benthic species since 2011. See: Neobiota monitoring