Abu Dhabi, 22nd December 2023: H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler's Representative in Al Dhafra Region and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), issued Resolution No. (8) of 2023 regarding the invasive marine species policy in Abu Dhabi.
The policy seeks to enhance knowledge of the threat posed by invasive marine species in the Emirate, and to respond by managing the path of these species to protect and preserve the environment, the economy, and the health and well-being of communities. The policy stipulates that EAD, in coordination with the relevant authorities, will follow up on the tools contained in the policy and implement them according to the specified timeline.
Invasive marine species pose a serious threat to global biodiversity, economies and human health. The UAE National Invasive Species Strategy and Action Plan (NISSAP) 2022-2026 defines the national framework for understanding the potential threats they pose. The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) will respond in cooperation with the competent authorities responsible for implementing the measures specified in the strategy at the emirate level. This five-year policy determines the implementation direction of the strategy and action plan in Abu Dhabi.
In line with the objectives of the National Plan, the Marine Invasive Species Policy in Abu Dhabi aims to understand the status and challenges of marine invasive species, vectors of introduction and spread, and gaps in current management in Abu Dhabi within the national context. In addition, the policy is a response to the marine invasive species ecosystem, which can emerge in the marine domain, and also includes terrestrial sites and activities that can serve as pathways for the introduction of alien species into the marine domain. This includes activities and operations that take place in ports, such as ballast water, materials attached to the ship’s hull (fouling), shipping, marine life sediments, and importing, , and Aquaculture facilities.
Her Excellency Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Secretary General of EAD, said: “This policy provides an overview of the status of invasive marine species at the international, regional and national levels and specific responses to any challenges identified. The waters of the Arabian Gulf, its islands, coasts and fisheries are of fundamental importance for the people of the United Arab Emirates and the region.”
Her Excellency indicated that the International Maritime Organization recognises that invasive marine species are considered one of the four biggest threats to the world’s oceans, as well as marine pollution from land-based sources, overexploitation of living marine resources, and habitat destruction. When an organism is introduced into a new ecosystem, it is likely to move away from competitors and environmental factors that kept it in equilibrium in its original environment. As a result, invasive marine species have the ability to reproduce rapidly in their new environment, which can cause habitat and ecosystem change, as well as adverse effects on the economy and human health.
Her Excellency confirmed that during the next five years, and in support and implementation of national efforts in the UAE National Invasive Species Strategy and Action Plan (NISSAP) 2022-2026, EAD will be focusing on completing research to further understand the threat of invasive marine species to the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. This is in addition to responding to priority pathways of introduction of these species through (ballast water, marine sediments, aquaculture, aquarium trade and red tide vesicles), in order to protect the environment, the economy and the health and well-being of communities.
Through the implementation of this policy, the status and challenges of marine invasive species, vectors of introduction and spread, and gaps in current management within the national context will be understood over the next five years. The completion of the marine baseline survey of the marine invasive species system in Abu Dhabi will result in the development of the first list of marine invasive species in the emirate, an update of the national list of marine invasive species system and understanding the priority areas for monitoring and managing marine invasive species.
Policies will also focus on all of the introduction and spread vectors of invasive marine species by drawing a map of the sea corridors that majorly contribute to the introduction and spread of invasive marine species, and the sea routes into Abu Dhabi taken by invasive species will also be mapped.
This will include identifying and mapping international shipping routes to help understand the risks of ballast water and marine life sediments as well as local shipping movement identification and mapping, leading to the creation of invasive marine species management plans.
In addition, measure will also include: developing a management plan for the aquaculture sector, developing and implementing a plan to manage invasive marine species in the aquarium trade, developing a plan to manage red tide forecasting, undertaking a study of benthic sediments in coastal wetlands, and launching awareness campaigns on invasive marine species with targeted partner groups.