Campaign launched to protect Irish waters from invasive species

Campaign launched to protect Irish waters from invasive species

The chub fish is an invasive species. Picture: Michael Rose; Frank Lane Picture Agency/Corbis

A national campaign to arm the public with knowledge of invasive species has been launched after an increase of 183% from 1961 to 2010 in Ireland.

The Leave No Trace Ireland campaign has partnered with Waterways Ireland, the National Biodiversity Data Centre, Inland Fisheries Ireland, and the Marine Institute, as well as water sporting bodies throughout the Republic and the North, to warn about the impact of invasive species.

The impact has caused about €2.5bn in damage to the UK and Ireland annually, according to 2013 research, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage said as the campaign launched.

According to Invasive Species Ireland (ISI), creatures not native to ecosystems are the second greatest threat to biodiversity worldwide, after habitat destruction.

Invasive species can negatively impact on native species, transforming habitats and threatening whole ecosystems, causing serious problems to the environment and the economy, ISI said.

Since the 17th century, invasive species have contributed to nearly 40% of all animal extinctions for which the cause is known, according to the ISI.

Annual environmental losses caused by introduced pests in the US, UK, Australia, South Africa, India, and Brazil have been calculated at over $100bn (€85.5bn), it added.

Japanese knotweed causing havoc

An example of invasive species causing havoc in Ireland in recent years is Japanese knotweed, rated among the 100 worst in the world by the Global Invasive Species Programme.

On Ireland's waterways, they include the water soldier plant, a type of carp fish called a chub, and pink salmon, Leave No Trace Ireland ecologist Padraic Creedon said.

“These are non-native species that have been introduced by human intervention, outside their natural range that can threaten our native wildlife, cause damage to our environment, economy and human health."

Chief executive of Waterways Ireland John McDonagh said inland waterways are "rich ecological and heritage corridors" but that invasion can cause huge damage.

"The introduction or spread of invasive species, both terrestrial and aquatic, is of key concern. 

"We would strongly urge our users to adopt the Check, Clean, Dry approach so we can all work together to preserve this valuable resource for current and future generations."

Check, Clean, Dry refers to:

  • Checking boats, equipment, clothing, and footwear for any plant or animal material, including seeds, spores and soil, with particular attention to damp or hard to inspect areas;
  • Cleaning and washing all equipment, footwear, and clothes thoroughly; 
  • Drying all equipment and clothing for at least 48 hours, as some species can live for many days or weeks in moist conditions. 

The National Parks and Wildlife Service is also supporting the campaign.

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