SYDNEY - Pacific environmental experts say invasive species pose a greater threat to regional economies than natural disasters like cyclones and tsunamis.
The Pacific Invasives Partnership - a grouping of NGOs and environmentalists - says invasive species like pests and weeds have the potential to decimate agriculture, fisheries and tourism. The group says that while natural disasters are generally a single event, invasive species remain in the environment for many years.
Posa Skelton from the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme says the taro leaf blight which devastated Samoa's farmlands in 1993 is an example of the far-reaching impact of non-native species.
"It's taken over 20 years just for that to recover. Where there's a lot of loss of life in the tsunami that happened in Samoa in 2009, people are rebuilding a lot quicker and recovering from it in terms of assets a lot faster," he told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat.
"But the silent impact caused by invasive species, it's a long-term problem. We need to make sure that we stop these invasive species from getting on to the islands because otherwise we have a problem that's going to last 20, 50 or 100 years."
Mr Skelton says agricultural exports and native species are among the hardest-hit by introduced species. "The Pacific Islands are made up of small islands, and a lot of the species are quite small in terms of genetic diversity and unique to the islands," he said.
"So any impact on those species will cause harm to the whole ecosystem making sustainable development or any planning on the islands quite difficult." The Pacific Invasives Partnership says governments must act quickly to contain the problem.
"We are doing some research in terms of finding out the economic cost of some of the invasive species, and hopefully those figures will be enough to convince our politicians to actually invest more in managing invasive species," Mr Skelton said.