Government targets invasive alien species through launch of FAST project

In 2020 alone, around 100 tons of terrestrial invasive alien species were removed from the Maltese islands  

File Photo
File Photo

Government has tasked itself with tackling the issue of invasive alien species in the country’s bio-diversity with the launch of the FAST project.

FAST - Fight Alien Species Transborder, is a joint collaboration between the Animal Rights Ministry, the Environment Ministry, the University of Malta, ERA and Ambjent Malta, all under the supervision of the University of Catania.

The project will see the monitoring and evaluation of Invasive Alien Species (IAS) on local habitat, and the eventual restoration of such natural habitats over the 30-month duration of the project, which will end in May 2023.

The FAST project has been allocated €1,599,120, co-financed with European Union funds from the Interreg Italia-Malta programme.

Addressing the press conference, Minister for Animal Rights Anton Refalo said the role of the Ministry in the FAST project will aim to counteract the introduction, naturalisation and spread of alien invasive species that damage biodiversity in the Maltese archipelago by means of targeting and evaluating IAS in Natura 2000 sites.

It will also oversee the controlling, monitoring and possible eradication of IAS.

The propagation of native plants which will be later introduced in the Natura 2000 sites will also be carried out.

Also addressing the launch, Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia said that in 2020 alone, around 100 tons of invasive species were removed from the Maltese islands.

“Malta considers IAS to be a very important issue, and has been actively working towards managing and controlling IAS through various means including various policy considerations and initiatives taken up through the years,” Farrugia said.

He said that prevention is key when dealing with invasive species.

“A national surveillance system is now in place including dedicated personnel responsible for on-site monitoring, as well as dedicated citizen science schemes to support the early detection and monitoring of invasive alien species,” the minister said.

Parliamentary secretary for EU funds Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi said the Interreg Italia-Malta’s aim is to contribute towards sustainable and inclusive growth by protecting the environment, promoting cultural heritage and improving the quality of life of the Maltese and Gozitans.

He said that around 1,000 citizens will be made more aware of these environmental issues with this project.