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What Needs to be Done?

Invasive alien species (IAS) are a global issue that requires international cooperation and actions. Preventing international movement of IAS and rapid detection at borders are less costly than control and eradication. Preventing the entry of IAS is carried out through inspections of international shipments, customs checks and proper quarantine regulations. Prevention requires collaboration among governments, economic sectors and non-governmental and international organizations. See "What Can be Done" in the Islands Biodiversity page on Invasive Alien Species for more information on prevention, eradication and restoration.

There are many international and regional binding agreements and voluntary guidelines that include regulations on invasive species. The following list is not comprehensive but provides an overview.

International Agreements

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
Article 8(h) of the CBD states that “Each contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate, prevent the introduction of, control or eradicate those alien species which threaten ecosystems, habitats or species”. The Conference of the Parties (COP) acknowledged the urgent need to address the threat of at its fourth meeting (decision IV/1), in 1998.

IAS occur in and affect all major taxonomic groups and ecosystems, and are considered a cross-cutting issue applicable to all work of the Convention. IAS have been addressed to varying degrees under the thematic work programmes and other cross-cutting issues of the Convention

Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures
Adopted: 1994
In force: 1995
There is no specific alien species content in the agreement, but it provides an international legal basis for all sanitary and phytosanitary measures that affect international trade. The focus is with pests, diseases, sanitary and phytosanitary issues, many of which are alien species.

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
Adopted: 1973
In force: 1975
The aim of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species is to ensure that international trade of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. A provision in article XIV states that the Convention does not affect the right of Parties to adopt domestic measures restricting or prohibiting trade. The provision has been used in Europe to address specific alien species.

Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS or Bonn Convention) Adopted: 1979
In force: 1983
The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals aims to conserve terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species. IAS are considered a threat to migratory species and are addressed in article III, 4c and article V, 5.

Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention)
Adopted: 1971
In force: 1975
The aim of the Ramsar Convention is the conservation and wise use of wetlands and resources. COP 7 resolution VII/14 addresses threats of invasive species to wetland ecosystems.

International Convention for the Control and Management of Ship's Ballast Water and Sediments
Adopted: 2004
Not yet in force: Entry into force will occur, 12 months after ratification by 30 States, representing 35 per cent of world merchant shipping tonnage.
Provides guidance and strategies to minimize and eliminate the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens from ballast water and sediments.

International Health Regulations
Adopted: 1969
Revision: 2005
Revised version in force: 2007
The aim of the International Health Regulations is to prevent the international spread of diseases. Parties are requested to detect, reduce or eliminate the sources of infection, improve sanitation in and around ports and airports, to prevent the dissemination of vectors and to encourage epidemiological activities.

International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC)
Adopted: 1951
In force: 1952
Amended: 1987
The International Plant Protection Convention is a treaty that aims to prevent introduction of pests of plants and plant products in international trade. An IPPC workshop on invasive alien species was held in 2003.

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
Adopted: 1982
In force: 1994
States are required to protect and preserve the marine environment from intentional or unintentional introduction of alien species.

United Nations Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses
Adopted: 1997
Watercourse States are required to take measures to prevent the introduction of species, alien or new, into an international watercourse (Article 22).

World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Agreement (1924)
The OIE is the intergovernmental organisation responsible for improving animal health worldwide and a total of 169 countries and territories are members. International standards, guidelines and recommendations for animal health, outlined in the OIE Terrestrial Animal and Aquatic Codes and Manuals, aim to guarantee the safety of international trade in animals and animal products and to control animal diseases and zoonoses worldwide while avoiding unjustified sanitary barriers.

Regional Agreements

African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
Adopted: 1968
In force: 1969
The African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources prohibits any act that may harm or disturb flora and fauna reserves or national parks, which includes introductions, whether indigenous, domesticated or alien (Article III (4)).

Antarctic Treaty
In Force: 1961
The Antarctic Treaty promotes peace and scientific research in the Antarctic and includes rigorous provisions for the introduction of alien species. The Committee on Environmental Protection was established and formed an Intersessional Contact Group to consider practical measures to diminish the risk of the introduction and spread of diseases to Antarctic wildlife.

ASEAN Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
Adopted: 1985
The aim of this agreement is conservation and management of the natural resources in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, including the preservation of genetic diversity and the protection of endangered species. This agreement requires that Parties endeavour to regulate and, as appropriate, prohibit alien species introductions (Article 3(3)).

Benelux Convention on Nature Conservation and Landscape Protection (Brussels)
Adopted: 1982
Parties (Belgium, Luxembourg and Netherlands) must prohibit the introduction of non-native animal species into the wild without authorization from the appropriate national authority.

Convention for the Conservation of the Biodiversity and the Protection of Wilderness Areas in Central America
Adopted: 1992
Parties are required to adopt mechanisms to control or eradicate all exotic species which threaten ecosystems, habitats and wild species in Latin America (Article 24).

Convention Concerning Fishing in the Waters of the Danube
In Force: 1958
This Convention applies to the governments of the Romanian People's Republic, the People's Republic of Bulgaria, the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Annex Part V, article 10 applies to alien species where the intentional introduction and breeding of new species of fish, animals and aquatic plants in the waters of the Danube can only be carried out with the consent of the Commission.

Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention)
Endorsed: 1979
In force: 1982
The Bern Convention is managed by the Council of Europe and includes a wide range of provisions and recommendations for Parties to control the introduction of alien species and for them to identify adequate management and control measures. The Bern Convention has produced The European Strategy on Invasive Alien Species as well as a report on identification of non-native freshwater fishes established in Europe and assessment of their potential threats to the biological diversity. The Standing Committee to the Bern Convention has commissioned legal research and analysis, developed recommendations and promoted the development of more effective legal measures for IAS issues.

Convention on Conservation of Nature in the South Pacific
Adopted: 1976
Parties are requested to consider the consequences of intentional introductions of alien species into ecosystems (Article V(4)).

Convention for the Protection of the Alps (Alpine Convention)
Adopted 1996
The Alpine Convention is a framework aiming to preserve wildlife in the Alps and to promote sustainable development, while protecting the economic and cultural interests of the resident population of the Alpine region. In Article 17, 1 of the protocol on nature conservation and landscape protection, contracting Parties are required to prevent introductions of non-native plants or animals.

Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic (HELCOM)
Adopted: 1992
In force: 2000
The Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic aims to protect this sea from all sources of pollution through intergovernmental co-operation. The Convention uses a definition of pollution, that may include IAS: ""Pollution" means introduction by man, directly or indirectly, of substances or energy into the sea, including estuaries, which are liable to create hazards to human health, to harm living resources and marine ecosystems, to cause hindrance to legitimate uses of the sea including fishing, to impair the quality for use of sea water, and to lead to a reduction of amenities".

Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR Convention)
Adopted: 1992
In force: 1998
Parties are required to take all possible steps to prevent and eliminate pollution and take the necessary measures to protect the marine areas against harmful effects of human activities and restore marine areas which have been affected by pollution. The Convention uses a definition of pollution, that enables the OSPAR to also deal with IAS: ""Pollution" means the introduction by man, directly or indirectly, of substances or energy into the maritime area which results, or is likely to result, in hazards to human health, harm to living resources and marine ecosystems, damage to amenities or interference with other legitimate uses of the sea."

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
Endorsed: 1992
In Force: 1994
Parties must apply sanitary and phytosanitary measures necessary to protect human, plant and animal health (Chap 7, Section B, Article 712).

Phyto-Sanitary Convention for Africa
Endorsed: 1967
In force: 1974
Member states are requested to take all possible measures to prevent the introduction of diseases and plant pests and other harmful organisms to plants in Africa and control and reduce the spread of already introduced species.

Guidelines and Codes of Conduct

Agenda 21 (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. Rio, 1992)
Chapter 11 calls for combating deforestation by, inter alia, preventing introduction of pests, diseases and exotic plant and animal species, and strengthening and/or establishing appropriate measures to regulate inter-border movement of plants and related materials. Chapter 15 acknowledges that a major cause of biodiversity loss is IAS. In Chapter 17, States are encouraged to develop legal and regulatory frameworks for ballast water and maricultural/aquacultural issues to prevent introduction of alien species. In Chapter 18, States are encouraged to control noxious aquatic species that may destroy other aquatic species.

FAO Code of Conduct for the Import and Release of Exotic Biological Control Agents (1995)
The Code of Conduct is destined to facilitate safe import, export and release of biological control agents and introduce internationally acceptable procedures, especially where national legislation is inadequate or non-existent.

FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (1995)
This Code deals with unintentional and intentional introductions of species related to fisheries and aquaculture and is voluntary. It includes consultation with neighbouring countries when exotic stocks are introduced into transboundary ecosystems and minimization of adverse genetic and disease effects on wild stocks.

FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries: Precautionary Approach to Capture Fisheries and Species Introductions (1995)
This document focuses on the precautionary approach to fisheries and guidelines on how to conduct fishery management and research. The guidelines are aimed at governments, fisheries authorities, the fishery industry, regional fishery management bodies, NGOs and other stakeholders to raise their awareness about the need for precautionary approach to and to provide practical guidance on how to apply such precaution.

International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES): Code of Practice on the Introduction and Transfers of Marine Organisms (2004)
The ICES Code of Practice was originally developed for marine aquaculture activities and aims to reduce the risks and negative effects from the introduction and transfer of marine (including brackish water) organisms. The Code is not limited to aquaculture and applies also to stocking, live trade (e.g., species used for aquaria, ornamentals, bait, and food), research, biocontrol, the use of genetically modified organisms, and to any persons that may intentionally or accidentally release of exotic species.

International Maritime Organization: Guidelines for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water to Minimize the Transfer of Harmful Aquatic Organisms and Pathogens (1997) The objectives of these Guidelines are to assist Governments and authorities, ship operators and owners, port authorities, and other relevant parties, to reduce the risk of harmful organisms and pathogens from ballast water and sediments while protecting ships' safety.

International Plant Protection Convention: Guidelines for the export, shipment, import and release of biological control agents and other beneficial organisms International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures #3. (2005)
These guidelines are risk management standards related to the export, shipment, import and release of biological control agents and other beneficial organisms. The guidelines apply to biological control agents capable of self-replication, sterile insects, other beneficial organisms and those packaged as commercial products. The guidelines do not include living modified organisms, biopesticides, or microbial agents intended for vertebrate pest control.

IUCN Guidelines for the Prevention of Biodiversity Loss Caused by Alien Invasive Species (2000)
These guidelines are designed to help implement article 8h of the Convention on Biological Diversity and raise awareness and understanding of impacts of IAS to reduce the negative effects of alien invasive species. The guidelines provide direction for the prevention on introduction, control and eradication of IAS.

IUCN/Species Survival Commission (SSC) Guidelines for Re-Introductions (1995)
These guidelines intend to provide a framework for re-introduction programmes and deal with intentional introduction of captive-bred species while preventing unintentional introduction of IAS.

IUCN Technical Guidelines on the Management of Ex Situ Populations for Conservation (2002)

The Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (1995)
This strategy intents to halt the degradation of biological and landscape diversity in Europe by 2010 and uses the “Principle of Avoidance” in dealing with IAS. Impact assessment is required to evaluate adverse effects of introducing alien species on biological and landscape diversity.

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme