The colonisation of new areas by species from outside the immediate environment is an important natural ecological process. However, human activities are rapidly increasing the number and rate of species introductions worldwide and linking areas that would otherwise be unconnected through natural colonisation processes. When introduced species become established outside their natural range as a result of human activity and threaten biodiversity, they are defined as Alien Invasive Species (AIS).

Alien species invasions are rising at an alarming rate. For example, studies of records for invasion-prone ports and estuaries have shown high rates of invasion by aquatic species; up to two to three new species every year have been reported for Port Phillip Bay in Australia, while up to one species every nine weeks has been reported for San Francisco Bay in the USA.

AIS can have severe impacts and they are known to cause negative ecosystem changes, threaten economic activities (such as fisheries), harm human health (through, for example, paralytic shellfish poisoning and cholera outbreaks) and result in the loss of biodiversity. It is no surprise that in economic terms the damage caused by AIS is enormous; the global cost is estimated at US$ 1.4 trillion per annum.

While the oil and gas (O&G) industry is certainly not unique in undertaking activities that can enable the transport and establishment of AIS, IPIECA acknowledges that many activities associated with the exploration, production and transportation of oil and gas have the potential to provide direct and indirect pathways for the transfer of AIS into new environments.

IPIECA also recognises that the eradication of established AIS is costly and technically very difficult if not impossible in many environments. In the majority of cases, prevention is therefore the most important approach and the most desirable management solution. In this context, IPIECA undertook a study on the management of AIS focusing on:

  • The analysis of AIS-related literature (drawn from a range of industrial sectors) and its specific relevance to O&G activities, in order to build on existing good practice;

  • The development of a risk assessment process for identifying priority issues based on (a) consideration of different direct and indirect pathways associated with principal O&G activities and (b) factors in play at the ‘source’ and ‘receiving’ environments that can influence the relative risk of AIS transmission; and

  • The preparation of guidance for preventing and minimising onshore and offshore AIS transmission.

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