Canada Target 11

By 2020, pathways of invasive alien species introductions Goal Bare identified, and risk-based intervention or management plans are in place for priority pathways and species.


About the Target

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), invasive alien species (IAS) are the most significant threat to biodiversity after habitat loss. Increasing numbers of invasive species are reaching Canada bringing serious ecological and socio-economic consequences. By 2015, IAS in Canada accounted for at least 27% of all vascular plants, 181 insects, 24 birds, 26 mammals, 2 reptiles, 4 amphibians, several fungi and molluscs, 55 freshwater fish and an unknown number of species that had not yet been detected. There is a need to improve the understanding of the means by which such species are entering Canada, and to take action to prevent their entry and mitigate their impact should they become established.

IAS are species of plants, animals, and micro-organisms that have been relocated to environments outside of their natural past or present distribution and which are harmful because their introduction or spread threatens the environment, the economy or society. Some of the better-known examples in Canada include purple loosestrife, Dutch elm disease, green crab, zebra mussel, and emerald ash borer. Since IAS may have no natural enemies in their new environments, their populations can grow unchecked and have the potential to cause significant damage to the habitats and food sources of native species. In turn, these IAS may impact regional economies and communities that rely for their livelihoods on the ecosystems and species impacted.

IAS are introduced through intentional and unintentional human action by air, land and water pathways. The key to dealing with invasive species is to identify the pathways of introduction - the routes they take to spread to new areas - and cut them off. IAS often arrive as hitch hikers on imported goods, like fruit, as stowaways in transportation or on the bottom of ships, or disease in wildlife. A key goal of Target 11 and Canada's Invasive Alien Species Strategy is to avoid the introduction and establishment of such species in future.

Canada Target 11 is linked with the following global Aichi target under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020:

  • Aichi Target 9 - By 2020, invasive alien species and pathways are identified and prioritized, priority species are controlled or eradicated, and measures are in place to manage pathways to prevent their introduction and establishment.


2018 Interim Progress Assessment

On track to meeting target iconCanada is on track to achieve Target 11 as a result of collective efforts by all governments to identify high priority pathways of invasive species into Canada, improve national and regional regulatory frameworks, and introduce education and outreach efforts to reduce the introduction and spread of IAS.

In general, pathways for the introduction of IAS in Canada are now well understood. For example, ballast water is considered a priority pathway for aquatic invasive species. As a result, Canada has strengthened the ballast water regulatory regime and is developing amendments to these regulations to help implement the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments, which came into force in 2017.

Since 2014, Canada has continually strengthened its national regulatory framework to prevent and control invasive species.

The Aquatic Invasive Species Regulations, for example, have been established to provide a suite of regulatory tools under the federal Fisheries Act. These regulations aim to prevent the introduction of aquatic invasive species into Canadian waters and to control and manage their establishment and spread, once introduced. These regulations complement existing federal, provincial, and territorial authorities and are updated regularly. Many jurisdictions also have strategies and/or regulations to prevent, detect, respond to and eradicate invasive species (e.g., Manitoba, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Québec). These include, for example, mandatory watercraft inspection programs and public education programs that target boaters (e.g., “Clean Drain Dry”) and the anglers/aquarium industry (e.g., “Don’t let it Loose”) to curb the spread of aquatic invasive species. Federal, provincial, and territorial governments, along with other partners, are also working together through collaborative frameworks to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species across borders.

National plans are also being developed for priority species such as Asian carp, emerald ash borer and zebra mussels, while research is underway to inform the development of biological control strategies for established invasive alien species.

A number of federal agencies work together on IAS. For example, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency works to mitigate risks to Canadian plant resources from imported shipments. In addition, the Canada Border Services Agency performs critical functions such as inspection of materials (e.g. wood packaging, goods in the presence of soil), export certification of key products, and works with domestic and international partners to address risks associated with shipping.

Provincial and territorial governments are also acting to address invasive alien species. A number of these governments – including Ontario, Manitoba and Québec – have passed legislation or regulations to address invasive species. In addition, Ontario and British Columbia have introduced strategic plans to enhance their early detection and rapid response capabilities.

A number of regional efforts complement these initiatives. For example, the Western Inter-Provincial-Territorial Agreement for Coordinated Regional Defense Against Invasive Species was signed by British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Yukon in 2016. In addition, Canada and the United States updated the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in 2012 to add new provisions to address aquatic invasive species, including early detection and rapid response, a ballast water discharge program, and risk assessments to identify high-risk species.

National-level cooperation continues to be strong on this issue. Most recently, in 2017, federal, provincial and territorial Ministers responsible for Conservation, Wildlife and Biodiversity approved the establishment of a permanent National Committee on Invasive Alien Species who will work to improve IAS prevention and management in Canada.

Multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder councils have been established in most provinces and territories. The Canadian Council on Invasive Species has been active in increasing national and regional outreach and education to change behaviour and close pathways to prevent the spread of invasive species. These include efforts aimed at boaters, anglers, and the pet/aquarium industry.

Canada also collaborates with a number of international phytosanitary organizations and trading partners to reduce risks of IAS introduction from imported products, and to ensure harmonized standards and guidelines are in place. However, more work is needed moving forward. IAS remain a serious threat to Canada’s biodiversity, economy and human health. Sustained and enhanced efforts are needed to improve surveillance, diagnostics and emergency response, to fully implement intervention and management plans, and to address emerging pathways for cross-border dispersal from the United States. Increased international engagement, cooperation and awareness of invasive species and compliance with policies and regulations are integral to ensuring that invasive species are managed at a global scale.


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