Invasive species are plants and animals that are introduced either by accident or on purpose into a country or region in which they are not usually found and which have negative or detrimental impacts on the native flora and fauna.
These plants and animals can spread rapidly because they are not in their original ecosystem and do not have any predators and/or competitors. They can have a negative impact on the economy, wildlife and habitats and are one of the biggest threats to biodiversity worldwide.
In Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough there is a threat that invasive species, if introduced, could have a negative impact on shellfish farming industry and the wild oysters and mussel stocks.
The Agency conducts regular monitoring of the fisheries and aquaculture in both loughs and records the presence of any unusual species encountered. If any invasive species are discovered, this information is sent to the authorities in both Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The Agency has been monitoring the distribution and abundance of two invasive species in particular in the sea loughs over the past few years, these are Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) which were introduced through oyster farming and a colonial sea squirt called Didemnum vexillum introduced by recreational boating.
It is important that the Agency monitors the presence of these species and their population size to ensure that they are not having a major economic or biological impact on other species. Further information on invasive species in Ireland can be found on the Invasive Species Ireland website.