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2003-01-31 10:04:00

Invasive Species Workshop Held

Island ecosystems, like The Bahamas, are generally considered highly susceptible to invasions..."

A new environmental project, funded by the British Government, intends to guard The Bahamas from invasive species such as the Brazilian pepper, the rat, Melaleuca and shiny cowbird.

This announcement came at the First Stakeholders' Workshop Tuesday from the Ministry of Health and Environmental Services Under Secretary Michael Turner. He was speaking to several government and non-government agency representatives.

The National Invasive Species Strategy (NISS) Project will allow scientists to monitor invasive species and develop a mechanism to address their introduction and spread, said Mr. Turner.

"Island ecosystems, like The Bahamas, are generally considered highly susceptible to invasions because of their particularly vulnerable native biodiversity. Island states are not only more susceptible ecologically, but are also more open in terms of the movement of goods and services across the borders," he said.

Consultation is important to the project, he noted, because national issues cannot be addressed without national discussions. To this end, there will workshops conducted in Abaco, Andros, Grand Bahama and San Salvador. The other islands will be consulted through the Local Government Ministry.

Mr. Tuner also pointed out that biological invasions are not only an ecological problem, but also an economic problem.

"In the United States, it has been estimated that over the past 85 years, 79 invasive species have caused damages amounting to more than $96 million. As the globe experiences trying economic times, we must strive to ensure that these biological invasion issues are not allowed to impact our economy negatively," Mr. Turner said.

Joining the Ministry, and the world, in the fight against invasive species is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the British Government's Environmental Project Fund.

In his address at the workshop, British High Commissioner His Excellency Peter Heigl said everyday native species and habitants are put at risk of displacement and extinction from invasion by non-native plants and animals.

"In Europe and the United States, the zebra mussel and aquatic shellfish has resulted in damage to industrial plants in the order of billions of dollars. In Africa, costs associated with trying to control the water hyacinth are estimated at $71.4 million," said Mr Heigl, agreeing with Mr. Turner that invasive species attack both environmental and economic status of countries.

The trading of goods, services, mobility of people and the liberalization of markets have helped these species to expand, he said.

Mr Heigl said the British Government is "proud" to contribute to the NISS Project. The Environmental Project Fund "works to protect and improve the quality of the global environment as a foundation for sustainable development.

"The Fund's objectives are to promote constructive participation in international efforts to tackle environmental problems and support implementation of international environmental agreements; support efforts at a local and regional level to tackle global environmental problems and promote co-operation between the United Kingdom and other countries on the issue," Mr Heigl said.

This is the first time the British and Bahamian Governments have collaborated on an environmental project.

By Khashan Poitier, The Nassau Guardian

 
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