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Plan to prevent the spread of raccoon dogs and other new invasive alien species on the EU list

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
24.5.2019 14.59
Press release

Last year, Finland adopted its first national management plan for combating the spread of significant invasive species in the EU area. The plan has now been supplemented with a new plan that applies to 12 new species added to the invasive alien species (IAS) list of Union concern. Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Jari Leppä adopted the new plan on 23 May 2019.

The new management plan and the preventive measures included in it are based on a report by the Natural Resources Institute (Luke) and the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) on the distribution, pathways and management measures concerning the updated list of the EU’s invasive alien species. A similar management plan for invasive alien species on Finland’s national list is also in the works and is set to be adopted during 2020.

Prevention measures target the most important areas in Finland

The new management plan contains primary management measures for nine new invasive plant species, two mammal species and one bird species. The plant species that are already established in Finland and threaten the native species and biodiversity of Finland are Himalayan balsam and giant hogweed, while the animal species in this category are the muskrat and raccoon dog. The prevention measures in the plan will be targeted primarily at those areas where the species can be managed in the most cost-effective way.

According to the plan, the spread of Himalayan balsam will be prevented particularly in nature conservation areas and their surroundings, as well as in waterfront areas such as coastal groves and along brooks and rivers. The goal is to prevent the spread of the species especially in areas where it is still relatively uncommon. Preventive measures along flowing waters must begin from the upper section of the waterways.

Eradication of giant hogweed, by contrast, must begin in populated areas and recreation areas. Next, the measures should be targeted at new areas where a seed bank has not yet developed, and at those where giant hogweed can easily spread in the environment. The latter areas include river basins and roadsides.

The raccoon dog has spread throughout Finland with the exception of the northernmost part of Lapland. According to the plan, the hunting of raccoon dogs should be intensified particularly in wetlands important for birdlife, in island areas, in nesting areas important for threatened bird species, and in nesting environments of declining game birds. In Lapland, hunting should be intensified to prevent the species from spreading into neighbouring areas.

The number of muskrats in Finland has seen a natural decrease in recent decades. Hunting of muskrats is still recommended, but no targeted measures are planned at the moment. The extent of the distribution area still requires investigation.

Preventing the spread of other invasive alien species to Finland

The action plan also aims to prevent the spread to Finland of those invasive alien species that are on the EU list but have yet to be observed within Finland’s borders. This category contains western waterweed, Myriophyllum heterophyllum, Japanese stiltgrass, alligator weed and giant rhubarb, as well as the Egyptian goose. The most important preventive measure is communication about the risks associated with the species and the prohibition on importing them into the country. The plan also aims to prevent accidental introduction of prohibited species, such as in connection with other import products or on vehicles, through effective communication.

Common milkweed and crimson fountaingrass, which have previously been used in Finland as decorative plants, have also been added to the EU IAS list. This means that the import, sales and use of these species is now prohibited under the IAS Regulation. Garden store owners and horticulturalists were notified of the change in summer 2018. 

Alien species are animals, plants and other organisms that have spread outside of their native areas due to human activity. An alien species is considered invasive when it threatens the biodiversity of an area. The EU maintains a list of invasive animal and plant species that may not be imported into the EU. It is prohibited to grow, sell or transport these species within the EU. Releasing these species into the environment is also prohibited. Finland, together with the other EU Member States, aims to eradicate invasive alien species and prevent them from spreading.

Inquiries at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry:
Johanna Niemivuo-Lahti, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 16 2259
Pekka Kemppainen, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 162 456
Email addresses are in the format [email protected]

Animals and plants Invasive alien species Jari Leppä