Vietnam must improve its ability to control invasive alien species (IAS), participants said at a workshop in Hanoi on November 19.

IAS refers to animals or plants introduced accidentally or deliberately into a new environment that pose serious threats to native plants and animals.

Managing IAS in Vietnam has become increasingly difficult in recent years due to increased international commerce and globalisation. Moreover, the country's ability to control IAS is limited by the lack of regulations on first-time imports of plants and animals, as well as the lack of clear guidance on how to deal with IAS once they enter the country, according to the Biodiversity Conservation Agency under the Ministry of Resource and Environment.

The agency recommended through evaluation before introducing any new species into the country, in addition to a review and revision of the 2008 Biodiversity Law and greater cooperation from ministries and local authorities in responding to threats posed by IAS.

Local authorities must start with raising awareness about IAS and providing equipment to local officials, especially at border checkpoints where goods are inspected before import, said Duong Minh Tu from the Plant Protection Department.

Representatives from the Department of Livestock Production were particularly concerned about IAS spreading in rural areas, where farmers who lacked information on IAS raised various kinds of plants and animals in order to gain extra income.

Applesnails, wingless cockroaches and hamsters, categorised as IAS in Vietnam and posing serious threats to the environment and human health, were once cultivated in rural areas.

The department recommended raising awareness about IAS in rural communities and issuing stricter regulations to control or exterminate species that proved harmful.

Other workshop participants proposed that the Government prioritise pre-border control methods to limit the number of IAS entering the country, improve the current legal framework and step up international cooperation.-VNA