Subject: environmental affairs, invasive alien species, biodiversity

Recent developments of counter-IAS policy in Hong Kong

Recent developments of counter-IAS policy in Australia

Prepared by LEUNG Chi-kit
Research Office
Information Services Division
Legislative Council Secretariat
25 November 2019


1.Alien species become invasive because they (a) outcompete native species for food and habitat; (b) hunt or smother native flora and fauna resulting in extinction; (c) cause environmental degradation and loss of agricultural outputs; and (d) threaten human health. See Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (2008), European Environment Agency (2013) and The Biodiversity Consultancy (2019).

2.In view of the prolonged impacts to eco-system and human health from IAS, an international treaty - the "Convention on Biological Diversity" was signed in 1992. See the United Nations (1992).

3.South China Morning Post (2018).

4.Over the past three years, two Council Questions on IAS were raised at the Council meetings of 22 February 2017 and 22 November 2017 respectively, while Members discussed IAS in a Council meeting on 29 May 2019. See GovHK (2017a and 2017b) and Legislative Council Secretariat (2019).

5.Australia's geographically isolated eco-system is fragile and vulnerable to IAS. Over the past 200 years, incursion of IAS in Australia results in the highest rate of vertebrate mammal extinction in the world, and remains the biggest threat to native species and the agricultural sector. See Department of Agriculture (2019b) and Sheppard and Broadhurst (2019).

6.Genovesi et al. (2015) and Sheppard and Broadhurst (2019).

7.For example, the number of hard coral species in Hong Kong surpasses that in the Caribbean Sea, while the variety of bird species outnumbers those in New York and London. Some endemic or globally threatened species in Hong Kong include Indo-pacific Finless Porpoise. See Environment Bureau (2016) and South China Morning Post (2017).

8.Red Imported Fire Ants bite human aggressively and repeatedly causing an itching and burning sensation, with chance to develop coma or even death. See立法會秘書處(2005年).

9.Red-eared Slider Turtles are one of the 100 worst IAS in the world. See GovHK (2015), Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (2019).

10.Mikania micrantha is also one of the 100 worst IAS in the world. See GovHK (2013 and 2015) and Legislative Council Secretariat (2016).

11.GovHK (2015 and 2017a).

12.Pursuant to the Public Health (Animals and Birds) Ordinance (Cap. 139), the Rabies Ordinance (Cap. 421) and the Plant (Importation and Pest Control) Ordinance (Cap. 207), a special permit/licence must be obtained for all imported animals and plants (except fruit and vegetables, plants produced in and imported from the Mainland, etc.) for entry to Hong Kong. Offender may be fined with a maximum of HK$10,000 and imprisoned for 6 months.

13.GovHK (2015).

14.Environment Bureau (2016) and Advisory Council of the Environment (2018).

15.South China Morning Post (2018).

16.Whitfort et al. (2013).

17.GovHK (2017b) and South China Morning Post (2018).

18.When compared with other countries, Australia has very high levels of endemism (i.e. species found only in Australia), including: 46% of birds, 69% of mammals, 94% of amphibians, 93% of flowering plants and 93% of reptiles. See Invasive Plants and Animals Committee (2017b).

19.Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2019).

20.Over 4 600 staff implemented federal biosecurity measures in 2018-2019. See Department of Agriculture (2019b) and Centre for Invasive Species Solutions (2018).

21.Invasive Plants and Animals Committee (2017a and 2017b) and Inspector-General of Biosecurity (2019).

22.Inspector-General of Biosecurity (2019).

23.Penalties vary across states. More stringent penalties are seen in New South Wales (a maximum fine of A$1.1 million (HK$5.9 million) and imprisonment for 3 years), and in Tasmania (a maximum fine of A$84,000 (HK$447,720) and imprisonment for 5 years).

24.The Biosecurity Imports Levy is estimated to raise A$305 million (HK$1.6 billion) during 2019-2022 for contributing to onshore surveillance, diagnostic, data analytics, research and adoption of new technology on IAS. See Department of Agriculture (2019a).

25.IAS being tackled by Threat Abatement Plans include rabbits, feral cats, feral pigs, European red foxes and unmanaged goats. See Department of the Environment and Energy (2019) and Inspector-General of Biosecurity (2019).

26.Centre for Invasive Species Solutions originally founded in 2004 is a publicly-funded national research institute for developing technologies and tools against IAS in Australia. Of these, biological control agents are insects or pathogens for the control of specific IAS, and shall be pre-assessed and approved by the Australian government to prevent the environment from negative impact.

27.Inspector-General of Biosecurity (2019).

28.As revealed by the Senate of Australia, the damage already done by IAS is mostly due to those established in Australia long ago, partly reflecting the effectiveness of recent surveillance and risk-assessment against IAS at pre-border stage. See Parliament of Australia (2015).

29.According to World Organisation for Animal Health in 2015, Australia scored full marks in 83% of the indicators assessing biosecurity system, specifically strong at governance, surveillance, enforcement, emergency response, technology and community engagement, leading amongst 130 countries evaluated. See World Organisation for Animal Health (2015).


Hong Kong

1.Advisory Council of the Environment. (2018) Progress of Implementation of Hong Kong Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2016-2021.

2.Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. (2008) Alien Species in Hong Kong Wetland Park.

3.Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. (2019) Freshwater turtles.

4.Environment Bureau. (2016) Hong Kong Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2016-2021.

5.GovHK. (2013) LCQ19: Mikania micrantha.

6.GovHK. (2015) LCQ22: Prevention of alien species' invasion of Hong Kong's natural environment.

7.GovHK. (2017a) LCQ4: Animal release activities.

8.GovHK. (2017b) LCQ12: Animal welfare.

9.Legislative Council Secretariat. (2016) Minutes of meeting. Paper for the Panel on Environmental Affairs meeting on 22 February 2016. LC Paper No. CB(1)857/15-16.

10.Legislative Council Secretariat. (2019) Official Records of Proceedings of the Legislative Council. 29 May.

11.South China Morning Post. (2017) Conservation in Hong Kong: citizen scientists enlisted to record and safeguard city's amazing biodiversity. 12 December.

12.South China Morning Post. (2018) More action urged on potentially invasive alien wildlife in Hong Kong. 24 March.

13.Whitfort et al. (2013) A Review of Hong Kong's Wild Animal and Plant Protection Laws.



15.Centre for Invasive Species Solutions. (2018) 2017-2018 Annual Report.

16.Department of Agriculture. (2019a) Biosecurity Imports Levy.

17.Department of Agriculture. (2019b) Priority list of exotic environmental pests and diseases.

18.Department of the Environment and Energy. (2019) Invasive species.

19.Parliament of Australia. (2015) Inquiry on Environmental Biosecurity.

20.Inspector-General of Biosecurity. (2019) Environmental biosecurity risk management in Australia, Review Report No. 2018-19/04.

21.Invasive Plants and Animals Committee. (2017a) Australian Pest Animal Strategy 2017-2027.

22.Invasive Plants and Animals Committee. (2017b) Australian Weeds Strategy 2017-2027.

23.Invasive Species Council. (2014) Stopping New Invasive Species Case Studies.

24.Invasive Species Council. (2018) KTPs & TAPs: Australia's failure to abate threats to biodiversity.

25.Sheppard and Broadhurst. (2019) Invasive species are Australia's number-one extinction threat.


26.European Environment Agency. (2013) Invasive alien species: a growing problem for environment and health.

27.Genovesi et al. (2015) EU adopts innovative legislation on invasive species: a step towards a global response to biological invasions? Biological Invasions, vol. 17(5).

28.The United Nations. (1992) Convention of Biological Diversity.

29.World Organisation for Animal Health. (2015) PVS Evaluation Report: Australia.

Essentials are compiled for Members and Committees of the Legislative Council. They are not legal or other professional advice and shall not be relied on as such. Essentials are subject to copyright owned by The Legislative Council Commission (The Commission). The Commission permits accurate reproduction of Essentials for non-commercial use in a manner not adversely affecting the Legislative Council, provided that acknowledgement is made stating the Research Office of the Legislative Council Secretariat as the source and one copy of the reproduction is sent to the Legislative Council Library. The paper number of this issue of Essentials is ISE03/19-20.