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A new initiative to raise awareness about the spread of harmful invasive plant species and the impact of litter on Irish inland waterways has been launched.

The ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ campaign aims to raise awareness about biosecurity and the impacts of litter and is calling on the public to play their part in protecting Ireland’s waterways.

It asks anyone who goes out on the water to help in reducing the risk of spreading invasive species and disease by following the ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ principles:

  • Check boats, equipment, clothing and footwear for any plant or animal material, including seeds, spores and soil. Pay particular attention to areas that are damp or hard to inspect.
  • Clean and wash all equipment, footwear and clothes thoroughly. If you do come across any plants and animals, leave them at the water body where you found them.
  • Dry all equipment and clothing for at least 48 hours — some species can live for many days or weeks in moist conditions. Make sure you don’t transfer water elsewhere. (If complete drying is not possible then disinfect everything.)

Leave No Trace Ireland is leading the initiative in partnership with Waterways Ireland, the National Biodiversity Data Centre, Sport Ireland, Canoeing Ireland, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Marine Institute, Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland and Sport Northern Ireland, with the support of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

Launching the campaign, Padraic Creedon, ecologist with Leave No Trace Ireland, said biosecurity is all about reducing the risk of introducing or spreading invasive species and harmful disease in rural and urban environments.

“Ireland is facing an increased threat of invasive alien species in and on its waterways,” he said. “These are non-native species that have been introduced by human intervention, outside their natural range that can threaten our native wildlife, cause damage to our environment, economy and human health.

“Water soldier (Stratiotes aloides), chub and pink salmon are just some of the species threatening Ireland’s waterways.”

Waterways Ireland chief executive John McDonagh added that the cross-border body for Ireland’s inland navigations “is delighted to partner on this important campaign with Leave No Trace Ireland.

‘The introduction or spread of invasive species is of key concern as it negatively impacts our native biodiversity’

“Our inland waterways are rich ecological and heritage corridors, enjoyed by a variety of recreational users. The introduction or spread of invasive species, both terrestrial and aquatic, is of key concern as it negatively impacts our native biodiversity and can seriously disrupt people’s enjoyment of the waterways.

“We would strongly urge our users to adopt the ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ approach so we can all work together to preserve this valuable resource for current and future generations.”

Malcolm Noonan, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, also expressed his support for the campaign. The minister noted that tackling invasive alien species is vital to our efforts to halt biodiversity loss, and that the Programme for Government provides for development of a new National Invasive Species Management Plan.

“Invasive species are a serious threat to our biodiversity, and I fully support the efforts of Leave No Trace and their partners in this new campaign to raise awareness about ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ protocols,” he said.

“I’m delighted to see my Department’s strong engagement in this initiative through Waterways Ireland and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and hope that it will help to improve vital biosecurity measures all over this island’s waterways.

“Through the British Irish Council, the NPWS also engages with counterparts in Great Britain to encourage water users on both sides of the Irish Sea to apply these simple but effective measures.”

Information and updates on the ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ Campaign will be available on the National Biodiversity Data Centre’s new invasive species website at invasives.ie as well as through Leave No Trace Ireland’s website and its partners’ social media channels.

Published in Inland Waterways

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