Jamaica Taking Action Against Invasive Alien Species

Photo: Dave Reid Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Lt. Col. Oral Khan (right), is in discussion with Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Japan, Shinichi Yamanaka (left). Occasion was the opening ceremony for a week-long capacity-building workshop for Caribbean Small Island Developing States on achieving Aichi Biodiversity Target 9 of the Convention on Biological Diversity at the Courtleigh Hotel in New Kingston on September 18. Looking on at (centre) is Programme Officer of Science, Assessment and Monitoring at the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Junko Shimura.

Story Highlights

  • Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Oral Khan, says Jamaica is taking action to protect the country’s biodiversity against the threat of invasive alien species.
  • Mr. Khan, who was addressing the opening of a regional workshop at the Courtleigh Hotel in New Kingston on September 18, said that among the measures being undertaken are the establishment of a working group on invasive species; development of a national invasive species strategy and action plan; and the launch of an invasive species database.

Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Lt. Col. (Ret’d) Oral Khan, says Jamaica is taking action to protect the country’s biodiversity against the threat of invasive alien species.

He noted that the island is affected by more than 120 such species. These are invasive non-native plants, animals, pathogens and other organisms that may cause economic or environmental harm or adversely affect human health.

In particular, they impact adversely upon biodiversity, including the decline or elimination of native species through competition, predation, or transmission of pathogens, and the disruption of local ecosystems.

With the island considered one of the most biodiverse in the Caribbean region, home to 8,000 recorded species of plants and animals and 3,500 marine species, it is important that these are preserved and protected.

Mr. Khan, who was addressing the opening of a regional workshop at the Courtleigh Hotel in New Kingston on September 18, said that among the measures being undertaken are the establishment of a working group on invasive species; development of a national invasive species strategy and action plan; and the launch of an invasive species database.

He noted that the proposed amendments to the Wildlife Protection Act will specifically address invasive alien species.

Mr. Khan also cited the implementation of public education campaigns, including the ‘Eat It to Deplete It’ thrust to get Jamaicans to consume the lionfish.

The lionfish, which is an invasive species, has destroyed stocks of other fish populations by consuming young native fish. They also cause havoc to reefs and other local ecosystems.

The national campaign is achieving its objectives of causing a decline in the lionfish population.

“Since its first invasion in 2008, it is now at about 50 per cent of where it once was at its peak,” said marine invasive species expert at the Centre for Marine Sciences at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Dr. Dayne Buddo, in an interview with JIS News.

“This is due mainly to getting fishermen involved and dive operators to the point where they now see it as food fish,” he noted further.

“There is no longer a fear towards it. A lot of that is as a result of an invasive species project we did with Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA),” he added.

The week-long workshop is focused on building the capacity of Caribbean Small Island Developing States to achieve Aichi Target 9 of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity.

The target speaks to identifying and prioritising invasive alien species, that priority species are controlled or eradicated, and measures put in place to manage pathways to prevent their introduction and establishment.

The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity includes 20 time-bound, measurable targets to be met by the year 2020 (Aichi Biodiversity Targets).

It is expected that the workshop will examine a number of issues, including an evaluation of national policies, legislation and capacities required within the Caribbean to achieve Achi Biodiversity Target 9; development of an action plan based on regional priorities, among other things.

It is being undertaken through support from the Government of Japan, UN Environment, Government of the United Kingdom, the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International and the Jamaican Government.

In his remarks, Head of the Caribbean Subregional Office of the United Nations Environment in Jamaica, Vincent Sweeney, cited the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships Ballast Water as a major step towards halting the spread of invasive aquatic species.

The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Convention, which entered into force in September, aims to prevent the spread of harmful aquatic organisms from one region to another by establishing standards and procedures for the management and control of ships’ ballast water and sediments.

“It addresses aquatic invasive species by requiring all ships to implement a ballast waste management plan, among other actions,” Mr. Sweeny noted.

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