An invasive is an organism that is not native, or indigenous to a particular area. Invasive species can outcompete native species for food and can cause environmental and economic harm to a new area. For the travelling public i.e., tourists, some organisms may spread further due to invasive alien species hitchhiking as they can be carried on the clothes, shoes, or in the luggage of travelers.
One of the most important sectors for Caribbean countries is Tourism. It is an economic driver as it contributes to the income of Caribbean countries. However, through this sector, many unwanted organisms may unknowingly spread due to unwitting travelers, who aren’t aware of the dangers or risks of certain items that can be contaminated by invasive alien species.
Raising awareness by shifting the attitudes of the travelling public towards the negative effects of invasive alien species would enhance their knowledge in regard to their management of IAS and accountability. Incorporating public sentiment using environmental strategies and policies would help prevent public opposition to invasion controls.
Once established, invasive species are difficult to eradicate, which is why prevention of (intentional or accidental) introduction is crucial. Our Declare, Deposit or Pay Campaign was recently implemented under the ‘’ The Preventing the Costs of Invasive Alien Species (IAS) in Barbados and the OECS Project’’. It will focus on air and seaports in Barbados and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). The aim of this project is to safeguard Caribbean biodiversity and protect people and their livelihoods from invasive species by creating an awareness and understanding of IAS and the consequences of deliberately or unintentionally transporting them, thereby gaining the support of travellers in implementing good practices. This means leaving at home any item that poses a biosecurity risk, declaring such items on arrival, or disposing of them in designated biosecure bins.
Other ways to prevent the spread of IAS hitchhikers include being pet smart. Some invasive species start off as pets like lionfish or green iguanas. Understanding the fundamental needs of a pet before purchasing can prevent its spread. Pet owners, who aren’t knowledgeable about certain pets, release them in new areas when they aren’t equipped to handle the needs of the pet, which can inadvertently establish an invasive species.
Also, choosing seeds for a garden can also be detrimental as the wrong seeds can create an established species. If you are travelling to another country, do not carry any plant or plant products like unknown seeds that may become invasive. The coral vine (Antigonon leptopus) is a known ornamental invasive that is commonly planted by gardeners, but it outcompetes other native species. The coral vine is a beautiful flower, but shouldn’t be planted due to its invasive tendencies.
Read more from our sources below!
National Park Service – Invasive Species, National Parks and You
Caribbean Invasives – Declare, Deposit or Pay Campaign
Caribbean Invasives – Why coral vines make the worst ornamental plants
National Geographic – Invasive Species
ScienceDaily – Unwelcome guests: International tourism and travel can be a pathway for introducing invasive species
Springer Link – Should tourists care more about invasive species? International and domestic visitors perceptions of invasive plants and their control in New Zealand