The spread of invasive species is recognized as one of the greatest threats to the ecological and the economic well-being of the planet. These species are causing enormous damage to biodiversity and the damage to the environment is often irreversible. Moreover, significant economic impact occurs to industries that depend on the coastal and marine environment, as well as costly damage to infrastructure.
Direct and indirect health effects are also becoming increasingly serious. Ships have been identified as a vector for invasive aquatic species. This could be through species hitching a ride in the ballast water of ships; or by adhering to the ship’s hull and external structures – a process known as biofouling. IMO addresses invasive aquatic species carried in ballast water through the Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention, which requires ships to manage their ballast water to limit the spread of aquatic organisms.
The BWM treaty entered into force in September 2017. This landmark step was recognized at the latest meeting of the Inter-agency Liaison Group on Invasive Alien Species, which held its 8th session in Brussels, Belgium (22-23 November). IMO’s Theofanis Karayannis provided an outline of the main provisions of the BWM Convention and explained aspects of its implementation and enforcement. Biofouling was also on the agenda and Mr. Karayannis updated the group on IMO’s latest Glo-Fouling project to address bioinvasions via ships’ hulls through the effective implementation of IMO’s Biofouling Guidelines.
Addressing invasive species is listed as a target under the UN Sustainable Development Goal 15, which calls on States, by 2020, to introduce measures to prevent the introduction and significantly reduce the impact of invasive alien species on land and water ecosystems and control or eradicate the priority species.
The Liaison Group meeting was hosted by the World Customs Organization (WCO).