Invasive alien species

What is an invasive alien species?

Invasive species are animals and plants that are spread by humans to areas where they would not naturally occur, and they have a negative impact on the native biodiversity.

When species are moved outside their natural range

All wild plant and animal species naturally occur within a specific, delimited geographical area. It is said that species are naturally native to a particular area.

Throughout history, humans have transported both plants and animals across the geographical barriers that naturally limit their distribution. Humans have also broken down physical barriers that otherwise restricted the spread of species.

Non-native species

Species that are not naturally native to Denmark are often referred to as introduced, exotic, or alien species. A species is either native or non-native; it cannot be both simultaneously. The distribution of species is dynamic, so it is a specific assessment as to whether species occurring close to Denmark should be designated as native species.

Invasive species

A small portion of non-native species thrive so well in the places where they have been introduced that they have a harmful impact on biodiversity and the ecosystems they inhabit. These species are called non-native invasive species or simply invasive species. Invasive species are, by definition, introduced, meaning they have been moved by humans from their natural range and have a negative effect on the native biodiversity

There are EU-wide rules for the handling of invasive alien species. 

They are established in the EU Regulation on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species.

The EU regulation on invasive species means, among other things, that:

  • It is illegal to import, sell, cultivate, use, and release invasive species on the EU list.
  • EU countries must ensure border controls to detect and slow down the import of invasive species.
  • EU countries must establish a monitoring system capable of detecting new invasive species.
  • EU countries are obligated to prevent an invasive species from spreading once it has been detected.
  • EU countries must maintain control over widely spread species.

Illegal invasive alien species

The EU list comprises 88 species, which are generally illegal to possess and trade. In Denmark, there is also an additional national list of invasive species. The invasive species on the national list are covered by Order on the prevention and handling of the introduction and spread of invasive non-native species on the EU list and on a national list with trade bans etc. against invasive species, and various prohibitions apply, including sales, imports, and releasing the invasive species into nature.

What are the possibilities for exemption from the EU Regulation?

For species covered by the EU Regulation, several restrictions apply, including import, transit, possession, breeding, transport, use, exchange, and the possibility of reproduction, cultivation, or breeding according to Article 7. However, member countries must establish a permit system that allows for research or ex situ conservation of the invasive species covered by the regulation. A permit under Article 8 can only be granted if all the conditions in Article 8(2) of the regulation are fulfilled.

If there is a desire to seek an exemption from the provisions of the regulation for research, ex situ conservation, or scientific production and subsequent medical use, the following form must be used and submitted completed to

Application form for exemption from the restrictions in the regulation (Danish)

Introduction of new animal species

In Denmark, the deliberate introduction of new animal species into nature is regulated by law LBK 1392 of 04/10/2022, which states that animals that are not naturally occurring in Denmark must not be released into nature without the permission of the Minister of the Environment. This applies to terrestrial areas, territorial waters, and fishing territories. Read more about applying for the release of non-native species.

Release of fish

The release of fish requires prior permission according to the Fisheries Act.

The use of foreign or locally absent species in aquaculture generally requires permission in accordance with council regulation (EC) No 708/2007 of 11 June 2007 concerning use of alien and locally absent species in aquaculture. Aquaculture includes fish farms, marine farms, longline cultivation of mussels and seaweed, etc. However, some foreign species are exempt from the requirement for permission.

Giant hogweed is the only invasive plant species covered by legislation for control.

This means that municipalities may choose to develop an action plan for control of giant hogweed and can subsequently require owners or users of areas where giant hogweed is present to control the plant in accordance with the plan, as per the Order on the Control of Giant Hogweed

Control of giant hogweed must lead to the death of individual plants and the eradication of populations. In massive populations and in populations with extensive seed production over several years, it is necessary for the control efforts to continue for several years in a row.

The property owner is obligated to ensure that the control is carried out in a manner that prevents any further spread of the plant during the entire control period, meaning the plant must not produce seeds.

This order has been established under the authority of the Order on the Cultivation of Agricultural Land.

Sosnowsky's hogweed and Japanese knotweed are not covered by this legislation.

Recipient agreements for species on the EU list of invasive species

As part of the Danish Environmental Protection Agency's management of invasive animals on the EU list, certain institutions can enter into agreements to receive and house these species. This helps prevent situations where they are released into the wild, and individuals captured from the wild can be disposed of. Organizations are free to decide what they will do with the surrendered animals as long as they adhere to all animal welfare regulations. In rare cases, euthanized animals may be used as animal feed.

If you encounter an animal in the wild that is on the EU's list of invasive species, you can deliver it free of charge to the organizations with which the Danish Environmental Protection Agency has entered into recipient agreements. You can also use this service if you own one of the invasive pets that you need to dispose of.