Invasive alien species and legislation - Frequently Asked Questions

§ ?

Regulations

What is the EU Regulation on Invasive Alien Species?

IThe EU Regulation on Invasive Alien Species lays down provisions on measures employed by the Member States to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive alien species in EU territory.

Link to the EU Regulation on Invasive Alien Species: http://eur- lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32014R1143&rid=1

What is the List of species of Union concern?

The List of species of Union concern contains the invasive alien species to which the EU Regulation on Invasive Alien Species applies. A separate regulation by the EU Commission contains provisions regarding the List. The list will be updated as necessary.

Link to the List of species of Union concern (Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2016/1141): In Englishsuomeksipå svenska

Information about the species included on the List of species of Union concern:

http://vieraslajit.fi/fi/content/euroopan-unionin-kannalta-merkityksellisten-haitallisten-vieraslajien-luettelo (FInnish)

What is the Act on Managing the Risk Caused by Alien Species?

The Act on Managing the Risk Caused by Alien Species (laki vieraslajeista aiheutuvien riskien hallinnasta 1709/2015) lays down provisions on how the EU Regulation on Invasive Alien Species is to be implemented in Finland.

In addition, the Act contains provisions on

  • invasive alien species which are not included on the List of species of Union concern but which can be considered harmful in the Finnish environment, and
    the control of other alien species, which are not, at least not at this time, considered invasive alien species..

Link to the Act on Managing the Risk Caused by Alien Species: http://www.finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/2015/en20151709

FThe purpose of the Act and its provisions are explained in the Government's proposal. See for example the detailed justification of the proposal, p. 35  regeringens proposition 82/2015.  (Government proposal 82/2015)

What is the national list?

The national list includes the invasive alien species which are not included on List of species of Union concern but which can be considered harmful in the Finnish environment. Provisions on the national list are laid down in a Government decree. The list will be updated as necessary.

The national list entered into force on 1 January 2016.  
Link to Government Decree 1725/2015 and the appended national list: http://www.finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/2015/en20151725

The grounds for preparation of the national list are explained in the justification memorandum of the Government Decree: (in Finnish):  http://mmm.fi/documents/1410837/1880296/Asetuksen+perustelumuistio.pdf

What does it mean when a species is included on the List of species of Union concern or list of national concern?

An invasive alien species included on the List of species of Union concern or list of national concern may not be imported to Finland from outside the EU, or from another EU country. Such a species may not be cultivated, sold or marketed. It is prohibited to release such a species into the environment.

Provisions may be issued by Government decree concerning a species included on the list of national concern to specify that not all of the aforementioned bans apply to the species or its specific use. However, releasing the species into the environment is prohibited without exception.

Who is responsible for ensuring that the regulations on invasive alien species are complied with?

The Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre) supervises compliance with the EU Regulation on Invasive Alien Species and the national Act and Decree on Managing the Risk Caused by Alien Species. Customs supervises compliance with the regulations on the importation of invasive alien species.

An alien species and an invasive alien species

What is the definition of an alien species? How about an invasive alien species?

Alien species means any live plants, animals or other organisms introduced outside their natural range by human activity, whether accidentally or deliberately.

Not all alien species are invasive. Invasive alien species means an alien species which has been found to threaten biodiversity.

Alien species and invasive alien species are defined in the EU Regulation on Invasive Alien Species (Article 3, paragraphs 1 and 2).

Invasive alien species of national concern, included on the list of national concern, are defined in the Act on Managing the Risk Caused by Alien Species (section 11). This definition is somewhat broader than in the EU Regulation on Invasive Alien Species. In addition to the damage caused to biodiversity, other damage to wild fauna or risks to health or safety are taken into account.

More information on the definitions of an alien species and an invasive alien species is available in the Invasive Alien Species Portal.

Companion animals

The List of species of Union concern includes companion animals, i.e. pets. Must these animals be given up?

Owners may keep their companion animals included on the List of species of Union or national concern until the end of the animal's natural life. The condition for being allowed to do so is that the animal was kept as a pet before its inclusion on the list. The owner must also ensure that neither reproduction nor escape are possible.

Is the pet skunk included on the list of prohibited species?

SThe skunk is included on the list of national concern, described above, provided for by Government decree. The skunk is a predator species referred to in paragraph 1.1 A of the decree. It is therefore prohibited to import, breed and sell skunks from 1 January 2016 onwards.  These bans do not, however, apply to specimens kept in zoos.

Owners may keep their pet skunks and other companion animals included on the List of species of Union or national concern until the end of the animal's natural life. The condition for being allowed to do so is that the animal was kept as a pet before its inclusion on the list. The owner must also prevent the reproduction or escape into the environment of the animal.

EU and national invasive alien species legislation prohibits the transport of invasive alien species. Can companion animals, for example, no longer be transported?

The provisions regarding alien species separately prohibit the transport of such species. However, the transport ban mainly applies to commercial transports, involving the transport of animals from, say, breeders or importers for resale. Whenever the owner of a companion animal that belongs to an alien species transports the animal, transportation forms part of the normal keeping of a pet, which is permitted under the transitional provision.

May a private person sell or otherwise transfer a companion animal, such as a red-eared slider, to a new home? 
Can pets be handed over to animal protection associations, for instance, in order to find a new home?

If the owner had a red-eared slider or another animal as a pet even before the inclusion of the species on the List of Union or national concern, he or she may keep the animal until the end of its natural life. The new owner of the companion animal has the same right if the current owner gives the animal up. The condition is that the animal is not kept for commercial purposes. Since animal protection associations are not commercial operators, a companion animal may be given to such an association for transfer to a new home. A transfer fee for the sole purpose of covering costs, which the animal protection association may charge, does not make the activity commercial.

Wolfdogs are included on the List of national concern. Can wolfdogs still be kept, bred and sold as companion animals?

Wolfdogs are included on the national list, which means that the Government decree defines them as an invasive alien species in Finland. The wolfdog is one of the hybrids between domesticated dogs and wolves, mentioned in paragraph 1.1.1 of Annex A of the decree. According to the decree, such hybrids may not be imported from outside the European Union or from a Member State of the European Union. The ban does not, however currently apply to the breeding, selling or possession of the species.

Flora

Do the restrictions applicable to the species on the List of Union concern apply to giant hogweed?

Giant hogweed is included on the List of national concern. The two other hogweeds found in Finland, Sosnowsky’s hogweed and Persian hogweed, are included on the List of Union concern. In accordance with the List of national concern, the same restrictions apply to giant hogweed as to the species on the List of Union concern, meaning that it is prohibited to import, cultivate, sell and possess the species, or release it into the environment in any way.

Commercial operators

Do the List of Union concern, the national list and the prohibitions they involve apply to commercial operators such as nurseries and garden shops, or aquarium and pet shops? 
How should I proceed if a species for sale is included on the List of Union or national concern?

It is prohibited to import, breed or cultivate, sell or otherwise keep any species included on the List of Union or national concern.

If companies are selling invasive alien species included on the List of Union or national concern, they may sell them to customers for up to one year from the entry into force of the List. The deadline is two years, if the species is sold or otherwise handed over for other commercial owners or for the purposes of research or ex-situ conservation.  Once the deadlines have expired, the companies must empty their stocks of any species included on the lists. With regard to species included on the national list, it is possible - by Government decree - to specify shorter deadlines than the aforementioned.

The transitional periods only apply to specimens of the species that the company acquired before the inclusion on the List of Union or national concern. During the transitional period, the companies must also ensure that reproduction or escape into the environment are not possible for these specimens..

Zoos

What should be done if an invasive alien species included on the List of Union or national concern is found in the wild?

Zoos may keep the invasive alien species included on the List of Union Concern until the end of their natural life, ensuring that the species cannot reproduce or escape.

The List of national concern does not at present apply to specimens kept in zoos.

Invasive species in the wild

What should be done if an invasive alien species included on the List of Union or national concern is found in the wild?

It is important to report any observations of such species to the Invasive Alien Species portal  www.vieraslajit.fi

If you encounter an animal included on the list of invasive alien species in the wild, you should directly contact the local animal protection association or a zoo. At their discretion, zoos may accept companion animals included in the EU listings, animals from commercial operators and animals encountered in the wild, included either on the List of Union concern or the national list of alien species. Zoos may keep the animal in question until the end of its natural life, while ensuring that reproduction and escape are prevented.

Animals accepted by local animal protection associations may also be transferred to zoos at the discretion of the parties concerned.

Is the property owner responsible for eradicating invasive alien species present on the property?

A species included on the List of Union or national concern may not intentionally be grown on a property.  If a plant species included on the list is planted in a garden, for example, the owner must remove the growth and dispose of the plant parts so as to prevent reproduction.

Invasive alien species can, however, spread to a property naturally and grow there, regardless of the owner’s actions. Neither the EU Regulation on Invasive Alien Species, nor the corresponding national legislation, impose a general obligation to eradicate a species from a property unless it is intentionally cultivated. It is recommended, however, that the property owners in the area, together with bodies such as the municipal authorities and non-governmental organisations, devise means and implement voluntary measures to eradicate the species or at least contain it. At the same time, attention should be paid to ensuring that no invasive alien species spread from the property in garden waste or removable soil.

However, in certain cases the property owner is obliged to eradicate a species included on the Union list or of national concern that is present in the property, such as giant hogweed, even if the species has spread to the property naturally. Such situations are fairly exceptional. According to section 4 of the Act on Managing the Risk Caused by Alien Species, such an obligation may arise if the invasive alien species could cause significant damage to biodiversity or danger to health or safety. A further precondition is that it is possible to eradicate or contain the invasive alien species by moderate and usual means. When assessing what are to be considered reasonable measures, the costs arising from prevention must be taken into account. The primary purpose of regulation is to emphasise the property owners’ responsibility to monitor the presence of invasive alien species in their property and to attempt to contain such species as early as possible.

The obligation of a property owner to eradicate a species (section 4 of the Act) may particularly arise in protected areas or in their immediate vicinity and in other sites where invasive alien species could harm an endangered species or a protected habitat. The distribution of invasive alien species included on the List of Union or national concern is currently being investigated in Finland. The aim is to identify areas in which prevention is particularly necessary.

The property owner’s obligation imposed in section 4 of the Act does not apply to birds or mammals.

Although the Act on Managing the Risks Caused by Alien Species entered into force on 1 January 2016, section 4 entered into force on 1 January 2017.

It is prohibited to bring seedlings or seeds of giant hogweeds to private gardens but Himalayan balsam, for example, is permitted?

Yes.   Giant hogweed is included on the List of national concern and other hogweeds are on the Union list. It is prohibited to cultivate these species. Himalayan balsam is not, however, included on either list, at least for the time being, and it is therefore not prohibited to plant this species in your garden. This is not recommended, though, considering the harm to the environment caused by the spread of Himalayan balsam.

The prevention of Himalayan balsam is unnecessary, but should I ensure that it does not spread, but is contained in the garden?

Although Himalayan balsam is not included on either list of invasive alien species, it is recommended that everyone ensures that it is contained in their garden, considering the harm to the environment caused by this species.

Can anyone eradicate giant hogweeds found in public places, without the landowner’s permission?

All measures undertaken by private individuals in the area of another party, when Everyman’s right does not apply, are subject to the consent of the owner or party in possession of the area. This applies to public areas such as municipal recreational areas, parks, beaches and the like. Even if the municipality allows the picking of, say, unprotected plants from recreational areas, this does not - in principle apply - to the total eradication of plants, even invasive alien species. Even if a municipality would, in practice, approve the eradication of invasive alien species from its area, you should consider whether individual eradication measures, particularly those carried out by private persons, are useful in controlling the risks of alien species, or whether they are in fact rather harmful (fertile parts of the plant may spread or the incorrect species may be eradicated). People should first and foremost be instructed to report all observations to the local authorities. Reporting should also be as easy as possible.

What should be done if a species is not included on the List of Union concern or the national list, but is classified as a harmful species in the National Strategy on Invasive Alien Species?

Invasive alien species referred to in the regulations concerning alien species are the species included on the List of Union concern or the national list. Alien species classified as harmful in the Strategy on Invasive Alien Species, and not at least for the time being included on either list, are therefore ordinary, i.e. non-invasive alien species as far as the alien species regulations are concerned.  The only provision applicable to such ordinary alien species is section 3 of the Act on Managing the Risks Caused by Alien Species, which bans releasing such alien species into the environment.

The most important way to combat and prevent the spread of invasive species not included in the Union list or national list, but which are classified as harmful in accordance with the national invasive alien species strategy, is to spread information as efficiently as possible on the harm caused by such species and the methods available for combating them. For instance, voluntary information or eradication campaigns can be used for this purpose, in the same way as for the prevention of the listed species.

Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry - Updated 28 June 2016 - English translation uploaded 10 May 2017