Below you will find an answer to the 10 most frequently asked questions.
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1) WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Before buying an exotic animal or plant, make sure you are allowed to keep it.
- Inform your regional competent authority concerning the holding of companion animals listed under the IAS Regulation but acquired before the list came into force.
- Never release exotic pets into the environment, and make sure it is impossible for them to escape their housing.
- Do not allow exotic plants to spread beyond your garden.
- Buy native plants for your garden/pond/aquarium.
- Never throw aquarium or pond plants into ditches, rivers or lakes. Dispose of them in the compost bin.
- brochure on the use and disposal of aquatic plants: click here
- Have you seen exotic species in nature? Report them on one of the websites listed below:
2) ARE ALIEN SPECIES THAT ESTABLISH NATURALLY DUE TO CLIMATE CHANGE ALSO CONSIDERED UNDER THIS REGULATION?
No. Species migrating into the EU in response to climate change are not considered alien species, as they are not crossing ecological barriers and they do not enter completely different environments. This is a natural process of adaptation.
3) WHY ARE SOME WELL-KNOWN IAS SUCH AS JAPANESE KNOTWEED NOT INCLUDED IN THE LIST?
The IAS list of Union concern is not comprehensive and does not include all invasive species proliferating in Europe. Some well-known IAS are not listed either because they do not have a risk assessment (see tab "species"), the risk assessments did not yet include some of the information required by the Regulation, or there was insufficient evidence that the species meets the criteria for listing. Specifically for Japanese Knotweed, there is currently insufficient evidence that inclusion on the Union list would effectively prevent, minimise or mitigate its adverse impact in a cost-effective way.
4) WHAT IF AN ALIEN INVASIVE SPECIES IS NOT ON THE EU LIST?
It is at the discretion of every Member State to tackle the IAS that are present on their territory but not listed at European level. Additionally, Member States can put invasive alien species on a list of national concern, and determine relevant measures to be taken according to Article 12 of the IAS Regulation. In Belgium, this procedure is detailed in the cooperation agreement.
5) SHOULD EVERY ALIEN SPECIES BE ERADICATED?
No. Exotic species are only of concern when they negatively impact biodiversity, ecosystem services and, economy. Under such conditions, they are labelled invasive exotic species.
When an invasive alien species is included in the list of Invasive Alien Species of Union concern, Member States are obliged to determine management goals for the species that are already present on their territory. These management goals include eradication, but also containment (keeping the species restricted to an area, regardless of the numbers) or control (keeping numbers in check) or even doing nothing if there is no (cost-)effective means to combat the species. When species first appear on the territory, the complete and permanent removal of the population should be applied.
6) CAN I KEEP EXOTIC SPECIES LISTED BY THE IAS REGULATION AS PETS?
Yes, private owners of companion animals acquired before the Regulation entered into force can keep their animal until the end of its natural life under the condition that it cannot escape or reproduce. You may only transport your animal for welfare purposes, e.g. a visit to the vet or boarding accommodation, or if you move house. You are not required to spay or neuter your pet, but you are responsible for taking appropriate measures to prevent its breeding. The IAS Regulation does not require you to have a licence for your pet but other legislation might. To ensure you are in order with the legislation, please consult the websites of the competent authorities.
- Flanders: https://www.natuurenbos.be
- Wallonia: https://spw.wallonie.be
- Brussels: https://leefmilieu.brussels
7) WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOU SPOT A LISTED SPECIES IN THE WILD?
Citizens can help curb the invasion of listed IAS by reporting their observations in the surveillance system established by the authorities responsible for the implementation of the IAS Regulation in Belgium. It is advisable to provide a digital picture to facilitate the subsequent validation process.
Observations may be reported through the following channels:
- https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/invasive-alien-species-of-union-concern (?)
8) SHOULD BELGIUM TAKE ACTION AGAINST SPECIES THAT CANNOT BECOME INVASIVE IN BELGIUM?
Some species may be seen as unproblematic in Belgium, and even be economically or culturally beneficial, while very damaging in other areas. Allowing derogations on a geographical basis is not an option, as one of the cornerstones of the European Union is the Single or Common market, which guarantees the free movement of goods. Regional variation in invasiveness cannot be taken into account because when an alien species is introduced into EU territory, its spread or transport to other Member States and environments suitable for colonisation cannot be excluded. Moreover, due to global warming, there is no guarantee that these alien species will not become invasive in those areas in which they are not yet problematic to ecosystems.
9) WILL THE IAS OF UNION CONCERN BE COMPLETELY BANNED? WHAT IF AN INVASIVE ALIEN SPECIES IS THREATENED IN ITS AREA OF ORIGIN? OR IF IT HAS A SPECIAL MEDICINAL VALUE?
Not necessarily. The IAS Regulation provides for the possibility of a few exceptions. These exceptions can accommodate the activities of establishments involved in the ex-situ conservation (i.e. species conservation outside of the country of origin of the species), research or medicinal applications of certain listed species and such establishments will be able to apply for permits from their Member State. Other uses could also be permitted, but only in exceptional cases, for reasons of compelling public interest, including those of a social or economic nature. In all cases, the confinement of the species in contained conditions will have to be guaranteed.
10) WHAT ABOUT COMMERCIAL STOCKS OF LISTED SPECIES? WHAT ABOUT PET SHOPS AND GARDEN CENTRES?
The Regulation includes transitional provisions for commercial stocks. Commercial owners have 12 months to exhaust their stock, e.g. by selling listed species to non-commercial owners, who are able to keep these species until the end of their natural life, provided that they are kept and transported in contained conditions and all appropriate measures are put in place to ensure that reproduction or escape are not possible. Remaining stocks after the 12 months transitional period will have to be either destroyed or transferred to an establishment that holds a permit delivered by the Belgian authorities to keep the species.