island conservation honolulu challenge launched

Global Initiative Calls for Urgent Action Against Invasive Alien Species

The Honolulu Challenge, a global initiative aimed at reducing the impacts of invasive species, launches today. 

Click here to read Island Conservation CEO Karen Poiani’s thoughts on the Honolulu Challenge

Goska Bonnaveira, IUCN Media Relations, +41 79 276 01 85, e-mail

Heath Packard, Island Conservation Director of Communications, 360-584-3051, e-mail

Gland, Switzerland, 29 November 2016 (IUCN) – A new global initiative to reduce the impacts of invasive alien species – the Honolulu Challenge – has been launched today by 33 organizations and institutions. The launch follows a call for urgent action on invasive alien species made by experts, governments and NGOs at the recent IUCN World Conservation Congress in Honolulu.

The challenge calls for commitments from governments and organisations in 11 priority areas, including development of effective biosecurity measures, increasing the number and scale of invasive alien species eradications, boosting the resources for invasive alien species control and addressing priority pathways –  the means of transportation of the species.

“Invasive alien species are among the most serious threats to biodiversity, and have a potentially devastating impact on our food security, health and economies,” says Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General.  “The launch of the Honolulu Challenge couldn’t be more timely: concrete action is urgently needed if we want to curb species loss and meet the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Invasive alien species are species that have been moved by humans – either by accident or intentionally – into areas outside of their natural range, with a negative impact on native biodiversity, ecosystem services or human well-being. Globalisation, with an ever-growing movement of people and goods, has led to the drastically increasing introduction of alien species over the past few decades. Invasive alien species are currently the main driver of animal species extinctions globally.

“Governments, NGOs and communities are making progress by taking steps to put preventive measures in place and eradicate or control the already established invasive alien species,” says Braulio Dias, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). “However, global targets relating to invasive alien species, such as Aichi Biodiversity Target 9, are yet far from being met. Invasive species still wreak havoc on numerous ecosystems and have a serious economic impact in all countries. This is particularly relevant to oceanic islands, where urgent action is needed to eradicate invasive alien species and avoid negative impacts on endemic threatened species. More collaboration and fast actions are needed.”

The Honolulu Challenge has already received five commitments towards meeting its aim, including from New Zealand, a country which has suffered greatly due to the impacts of invasive alien species. As part of the initiative, New Zealand has committed to making the country free from its three most destructive invasive alien predators (possums, rats and stoats) by 2050, and eradicate all invasive alien species from island nature reserves by 2025.

In Mexico, the Grupo de Ecología y Conservación de Islas, A.C. (GECI) with the support of federal government and local communities, has committed to removing invasive mammals from all islands of Mexico by 2030. The Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has committed to doubling its long-term co-investment into invasive alien species management. BirdLife International and Island Conservation have both committed to addressing invasive alien species and their impacts on 75 islands by 2020.   

 A global commitment to address the challenge of invasive alien species has been set through the Convention on Biological Diversity and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“New Zealand is lending its support to the Honolulu Challenge as a leader in combating invasive species and protecting biodiversity,” says Conservation Minister for New Zealand Maggie Barry. “Our predator-free vision is by far the largest such project ever attempted and has drawn significant international interest. Through Predator Free 2050 the Government has set a target of completely eradicating possums, rats and stoats from New Zealand and making the country safe again for the native species these introduced predators threaten to wipe out.  As a Government we’re backing New Zealanders to be at the forefront of a global solution.”

 While developed nations have received the highest numbers of invasive alien species, emerging economies are also likely to be severely affected, as they support the highest levels of biodiversity and suffer the greatest level of poverty. These countries usually have limited capacity to act and are likely to be exposed to high environmental, social and economic impacts as a result of an increase in invasive alien species.

The Honolulu Challenge is calling for more commitments from countries and organisations in support of its aim.

The launch of the initiative comes on the eve of the Thirteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD CoP13) in Cancun, Mexico, where most of the world governments will meet to agree on action needed to address invasive alien species.

For more information or interviews please contact:

Goska Bonnaveira, IUCN Media Relations, +41 79 276 01 85, e-mail

Heath Packard, Island Conservation Director of Communications, 360-584-3051, e-mail


Notes to editors

– Develop effective biosecurity measures

– Enforce effective measures to address priority pathways of invasions

– Greatly increase the number and scale of invasive alien species eradications

– Substantially increase resources for invasive alien species control

– Integrate invasive alien species into protected area management plans

– Invest in innovative solutions

– Institutionalize invasive alien species programmes across government ministries

– Support assessments on the social and economic impacts of invasive alien species

– Engage with relevant sectors and civil society to raise awareness

– Increase international financial flows and mobilise domestic resources

– Enable enhanced knowledge through investing in data collection and sharing

Supporters of the Honolulu Challenge include:

Ashoka Trust for research in Ecology and the Environment; Bern Convention; BirdLife International; CABI; Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad; Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; Conservation International; Convention on Biological Diversity Secretariat; Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust; European Commission; Global Biodiversity Information Facility; Global Island Partnership; Grupo de Ecología y Conservaciín de Islas; Hawaii Invasive Species Council; International Union for Conservation of Nature; Invasive Species Council; Island Conservation; Island Conservation Society; IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management, Ecosystem and Invasive Species Thematic Group; IUCN Species Survival Commission; Jägareförbundet; Landcare Research; Mauritian Wildlife Foundation; Nature Fiji; New Zealand Department of Conservation; Pacific Invasives Initiative; Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme; South African National Biodiversity Institute; SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group; Trilateral Island Initiative; University of Stellenbosch, at the Center for Invasion Biology; Zoological Society London.

Honolulu Challenge Commitments can be found here:

The Honolulu Challenge webpage, with the full text of the 11 priority areas, can be found here:

Background information on the need for the challenge:

For examples of how invasive alien species can have far reaching and often serious impacts, see the species case studies Download Invasive Species case studies here.

The 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.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Target #15.8 “By 2020, introduce measures to prevent the introduction and significantly reduce the impact of invasive alien species on land and water ecosystems and control or eradicate the priority species.”

Additional Quotes from those providing commitments to the Honolulu Challenge, and its supporters

 BirdLife Partnership
“The Honolulu Challenge embodies the spirit of the BirdLife Partnership” says BirdLife CEO Patricia Zurita, “as it is through the ‘power of many’ that we will succeed in overcoming what has been the single greatest cause in the extinction of birds on islands (since 1500) and remains the primary reason for their decline. The BirdLife partnership is committed to an ambitious programme of combating invasive alien species in restoring and protecting globally important sites for birds, all biodiversity and people said Patricia.”

Island Conservation

We are proud to have helped launch The Honolulu Challenge because we need to marshal all the conservation community’s resources to try to match the scale and scope of this incredible conservation opportunity! Removing invasive species from islands is one of the most effective conservation interventions we have to prevent extinctions and we need to find innovative ways to do more, faster. -Karen Poiani, CEO for Island Conservation

Grupo de Ecología y Conservación de Islas, Mexico

“Mexico is fully committed to addressing the threat of invasive alien species and contributing to Aichi Target 9 and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Target 15.8. For two decades, based on a strong collaboration network – federal government, academia, local fishing cooperatives, and with civil society at the core – Mexico has successfully eradicated 58 populations of invasive mammals from 37 Mexican islands, which represents more than 51,000 hectares restored. Partnering with Federal Government we continue with the strong commitment of having all Mexico’s islands free of invasive mammals by 2030” says Dr. Alfonso Aguirre-Muñoz, Executive Director of GECI and 2016 winner of the MIDORI Prize for Biodiversity awarded by the Secretariat of the CBD.

Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF)

“We warmly welcome the Honolulu Challenge and its emphasis on the need to invest in data collection, standardization, sharing and open access.” Says Donald Hobern, director of GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. “We are committed through our global network and partnerships to provide the tools and infrastructure to enable the widest possible mobilization of data on the occurrence and spread of invasive alien species, including through citizen science initiatives, as free access to such data is critical to improving knowledge and informing effective action.”

Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI)
“The Honolulu Challenge addresses a severe and growing global threat – that of biological invasions. These particularly impact the livelihoods of vulnerable rural communities. Left unmanaged, they undermine any investments in development including adaptation measures to climate change. Two key drivers – food security and economic growth – require us to take action. The Honolulu Challenge synergizes with our recently launched programme to protect and improve the livelihoods of 50 million poor rural households impacted by the worst invasive species, and makes CABI proud to be a Honolulu Challenge supporter.” says Dr Dennis Rangi, Director-General, Development, CABI

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Islands have been hit hard by invasive alien species” says Jamie Copsey of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. “The extinction on Mauritius of one of the world’s most iconic species, the Dodo, caused in part by introduced rats and pigs, has since been followed a growing number of native species threatened, through direct predation, disease, competition and hybridisation.  Invasive species are an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen.  But unlike events such as cylcones and hurricanes, their impacts can take many years to be felt.”

Landcare Research
In spite of the recognised threat of Invasive Alien Species (with Aichi Target #9 calling for their effective management by 2020), IAS numbers and their impacts continue to grow globally; a step-up in their management is thus urgently needed”
says Dr Dan Tompkins, Managing Invasives Portfolio Leader at Landcare Research. “We will thus fully support the Honolulu Challenge, through research to improve our management of invasive weeds, pests and diseases, and enable desired outcomes both locally (such as Predator Free New Zealand) and worldwide.”

 Zoological Society of London (ZSL)
“Given the vast number of alien species, and the broad range of impacts they can have, how do we identify which are the worst in order to prioritise our remedial or preventative actions?  To enable invasion biologists to identify and categorise the magnitude and types of impacts associated with alien taxa, we have developed the
Environmental Impact Classification for Alien Taxa (EICAT).  This allows clear comparisons to be made regarding the impacts of alien species across different regions and taxonomic groups” says  Professor Tim Blackburn of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and University College London (UCL).

About IUCN
IUCN is a membership Union uniquely composed of both government and civil society organisations. It provides public, private and non-governmental organisations with the knowledge and tools that enable human progress, economic development and nature conservation to take place together. Created in 1948, IUCN is now the world’s largest and most diverse environmental network, harnessing the knowledge, resources and reach of more than 1,300 Member organisations and some 16,000 experts. It is a leading provider of conservation data, assessments and analysis. Its broad membership enables IUCN to fill the role of incubator and trusted repository of best practices, tools and international standards.

IUCN provides a neutral space in which diverse stakeholders including governments, NGOs, scientists, businesses, local communities, indigenous peoples organisations and others can work together to forge and implement solutions to environmental challenges and achieve sustainable development. Working with many partners and supporters, IUCN implements a large and diverse portfolio of conservation projects worldwide. Combining the latest science with the traditional knowledge of local communities, these projects work to reverse habitat loss, restore ecosystems and improve people’s well-being.

About the Species Survival Commission
The Species Survival Commission  (SSC) is the largest of IUCN’s six volunteer commissions with a global membership of around 7,500 experts. SSC advises IUCN and its members on the wide range of technical and scientific aspects of species conservation, and is dedicated to securing a future for biodiversity. SSC has significant input into the international agreements dealing with biodiversity conservation.

About the SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group
The Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) is a global network of scientific and policy experts on invasive species, organized under the auspices of the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The ISSG was established in 1994. It currently has 196 core members from over 40 countries and a wide informal global network of over 2000 conservation practitioners and experts who contribute to its work. The ISSG aims to reduce threats to natural ecosystems and the native species they contain by increasing awareness of invasive alien species, and of ways to prevent, control or eradicate them.


About – Honolulu Challenge Supporters

Island Conservation
Island Conservation (IC) is our world’s only global, not-for-profit conservation organization whose mission is to prevent extinctions by removing invasive species from islands. We work where the concentration of both biodiversity and species extinction is greatest – islands. Removing a primary threat – introduced invasive vertebrates – is one of the most critical interventions for saving threatened plants and animals and restoring island ecosystems. Once invasive species are removed, native island species and ecosystems recover with little additional intervention. Over the past 20 years, Island Conservation and partners have deployed teams to protect 994 populations of 389 species on 52 islands. IC is headquartered in Santa Cruz, CA with field offices in Australia, The Bahamas, British Columbia, Chile, Ecuador, Hawaii, New Zealand, Palau, and Puerto Rico.

BirdLife International
BirdLife International is the world’s largest nature conservation partnership. Together we are 120 BirdLife Partners worldwide – one per country or territory – and growing. We are driven by our belief that local people, working for nature in their own places but connected nationally and internationally through our global Partnership, are the key to sustaining all life on this planet. This unique local-to-global approach delivers high impact and long-term conservation for the benefit of nature and people. BirdLife is widely recognised as the world leader in bird conservation. Rigorous science informed by practical feedback from projects on the ground in important sites and habitats enables us to implement successful conservation programmes for birds and all nature. Coordinated through nine global conservation programmes including one addressing invasive alien species our actions are providing both practical and sustainable solutions significantly benefiting nature and people.

Grupo de Ecología y Conservación de Islas, A.C. (GECI).
GECI is a Mexican civil society organization (CSO) established in 1998.  Its goal is to conserve and restore island ecosystems following a comprehensive and interdisciplinary approach, including the removal of invasive species, active restoration actions, biosecurity, and environmental learning with local coastal communities. GECI backs as well sustainable fishing, and contributes to the formulation of public policies and management tools. Based in Ensenada, Baja California and La Paz, Baja California Sur, GECI is integrated by 100 young professionals and specialized technicians: a multifunctional, interdisciplinary, and very resourceful staff. To develop its work, GECI enjoys a sustained support from the Mexican federal government, other CSO, local fishermen communities, and national and international donors. GECI contributes significantly to the implementation of the National Strategy for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of the Mexican Islands—the first one in the world. GECI also conducts a long-term islands’ biosecurity national programme in coordination with the National Commission for Biodiversity (CONABIO) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), with funding from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF).

Commonwealth Industrial & Scientific Research Organisation (CSIRO)
CSIRO is Australia’s National Research Agency established 100 years ago to develop innovative research solutions for Australia’s long-term challenges and advising the Australian Government on science-based policy development. CSIRO has been targeting invasive species problems since its conception through national leadership in the development of biological control programs of pests and weeds; leading the world in the use of pathogens as effective biological control agents and underwriting Australia’s unique successes in rabbit biological control using viral agents over more than fifty years. In recent years CSIRO has become a global leader in biosecurity research that has led to massive reductions in the arrival and establishment rate of IAS, through effective risk assessment of species and pathways and through a better understanding of the environmental impacts of IAS. This has led to science-based prioritization of nationally significant IAS to focus investment and action.

CABI (Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International) is an international not-for-profit organization that improves people’s lives by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment. Our 48 member countries guide and influence our core areas of work, which include International Development and Publishing. Through knowledge sharing and science, CABI helps address issues of global concern such as improving global food security and safeguarding the environment. We do this by helping farmers grow more and lose less of what they produce, combating threats to agriculture and the environment from pests and diseases, protecting biodiversity from invasive species, and improving access to agricultural and environmental scientific knowledge. For more information go to

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) is an international open data infrastructure, funded by governments. It allows anyone, anywhere to access data about all types of life on Earth, shared across national boundaries through the platform. By encouraging and helping institutions to publish data according to common standards, GBIF enables research not possible before, and informs better decisions to conserve and sustainably use the biological resources of the planet. GBIF operates through a network of nodes, coordinating the biodiversity information facilities of Participant countries and organizations, collaborating with each other and the Secretariat to share skills, experiences and technical capacity.

Trilateral Island Initiative
The Trilateral Committee for Wildlife and Ecosystem Conservation and Management was established in 1995 to effectively address priorities of continental significance and enhance the conservation efforts of Canada, United States, and Mexico. Under the umbrella of the Trilateral Committee, the purpose of the Trilateral Island Initiative is to promote collaboration on the conservation and restoration of island ecosystems and their adjacent coastal and marine environments in North America. The Trilateral Island Initiative has the following goals: 1) Strengthen on-the-ground conservation and restoration of islands and their surrounding marine waters, 2) Improve coordination on island-related natural resource issues of mutual interest, 3) Strengthen institutional capacities, and 4) Improve efficiencies and increase success of island-related conservation projects. The Trilateral Island Initiative is focusing efforts on invasive species, biosecurity, restoration, local communities, and climate change.

Landcare Research
Landcare Research is New Zealand’s leading research institute for the land environment.  Our Core Purpose is to drive innovation in New Zealand’s management of terrestrial biodiversity and land resources to protect and enhance the land environment and grow New Zealand’s prosperity. Our people and infrastructure constitute the largest cluster of environmental research expertise and services in New Zealand. Our Māori name – Manaaki Whenua – means to ‘Care for the Land’ in the sense that the environment is inextricably linked to economic, societal and cultural well-being. The holistic and intergenerational worldview of many Māori entities, iwi and hapu  aligns closely to Landcare Research’s integrated, inter-disciplinary research, and our aspirations that New Zealanders can live in harmony with nature.

 Zoological Society of London (ZSL)
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity whose mission is to promote and achieve the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. Our mission is realised through our ground-breaking science, our active conservation projects in more than 50 countries and our two Zoos, ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.

Featured photo: Honolulu. Credit: Dalton Reed

About Island Conservation

Island Conservation prevents extinctions by removing invasive species from islands. To date, we have successfully restored 64 islands worldwide, benefiting 1195 populations of 487 species and subspecies. Working together with local communities, government management agencies, and conservation organizations, we select islands that have the greatest potential for preventing the extinction of globally threatened species.

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