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Les espèces envahissantes dans l’archipel néo-calédonien

Marie-Laure Beauvais
Alain Coléno
Hervé Jourdan

Part one. Synthesis and recommendations

Communication on invasive species

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1Like any other environmental problem, control of invasive species needs to be based on awareness of the implications by the public and by private enterprise. Active, informed public support is a major factor for success in managing a pest crisis; regulations and coercive measures alone do not succeed. Which raises the question of what to communicate, and how. There may be conflicts of interest where alien species are concerned because some of them are a source of income, pleasure or even a staple food for some people.

2A communication drive is not cheap, so it is crucial that messages be well thought out, targets clearly identified and the expected benefits estimated beforehand. In economic terms, information dissemination is henceforth a fully-fledged risk management method.


3The involvement of local communities and public participation in general is considered an indispensable factor for the success of some projects run by the World Bank and other international organisations. The IUCN also recommends building communication strategies as part of the preparations for a pest prevention, eradication or control programme. In its view, real consultations with local communities and all parties concerned by the programme will prevent most later misunderstandings and disagreements. Although fines or other penalties have sometimes been applied to encourage environmental risk prevention, it seems that a public information drive can greatly increase compliance with standards.

4In economics, asymmetrical information, the fact that not all agents are perfectly informed, is regarded as a market dysfunction. Information divulged helps to correct the imbalance. The result is an increase in collective well-being compared to the initial situation and hence more efficient resource allocation. In politics, information drives (local or general) are a way for political and administrative authorities to legitimise their actions. Individuals are more likely to pay willingly for prevention programmes if they are supplied with scientific information. The gains are triple: there is better understanding of environmental issues, official actions are more widely seen as legitimate, and those actions are more effective.

An information drive about the hazards of invasive species may have various objectives and advantages:
– Enabling people to become aware of hazardous behaviour or activities and to change them. This will be a very useful addition to official programmes using the HACCP system (critical control points system, see p. 189) to prevent the introduction of invasive species.
Enabling those affected to identify the source and foreseeable consequences of an environmental problem and so giving them the means to respond.
Changing public perception of the importance of environmental issues, either by improving their scientific knowledge of a given problem (information campaign) or by convincing them of the urgency of the need for action. This can be vital for legitimising official intervention.

5The relative importance of these objectives should guide the choice of communication strategy: general education campaigns, awareness and sensitisation campaigns on specific hazards, social marketing campaigns (persuasion). In practice, the first stage is to identify the target groups (business people, farmers, general public etc.) and draw up a socio-economic profile of them, even if it is a crude profile. The next step is to define the objectives (to educate, raise awareness or change behaviour) and choose a suitable strategy (an awareness or sensitisation campaign, or a social marketing campaign designed to change behaviour). By designing impact indicators and using focus groups, an ongoing campaign can be readjusted. Success partly depends, of course, on the credibility of the information disseminated and the media used (see paper by E. Gozlan et al.).

6Awareness and sensitisation campaigns are intended to inform and influence individual and collective decisions so that they take better account of the environment. In 2001 the IUCN suggested a set of recommendations on invasive species (see box).

IUCN recommendations for an information campaign on invasive species
1/ Identify the particular interests and roles of local communities and relevant branches of business with regard to IAS problems and target them with relevant information and recommended actions, the general public being an important target group to consider.
2/ Facilitate access to up-to-date, accurate information as a key element in awareness and sensitisation campaigns. Inform different target audiences using different media: electronic media, handbooks, databases, scientific journals, general readership publications.
3/ Focus especially on importers and exporters of living organisms. This is a key target group for information and education drives, to generate greater awareness and better understanding of the problem and their own possible role in prevention.
4/ Encourage the private sector to develop and comply with its own recommendations and good practice guidelines. Monitor compliance with these recommendations.
5/ Inform and advise travellers, both international and in-country. Make as many people as possible aware of the risks and the effects they could induce by importing species. This is another important priority and can be a low-cost way to reduce risk.
6/ Encourage the eco-tourism sector to make its customers aware of the IAS problem. Work with eco-tourism operators to develop specific principles and recommendations for the tourism industry to prevent accidental or unauthorised introduction of alien plants (particularly seeds) and animals into island habitats and particularly vulnerable ecosystems such as lakes, mountains, nature reserves, wilderness and isolated forests.
7/ Not only train quarantine and border control staff in their actual skills and responsibilities but also educate them in the broader context and the threats to biodiversity.
8/ Draw up communication strategies when preparing prevention, eradication or control programmes. Real consultation with local communities and all parties concerned by the programme will prevent most subsequent misunderstandings and disagreements.
9/ Allow a suitable place for addressing IAS problems and possible solutions in school curricula and education programmes.
10/ Make sure national regulations on the intentional and unintentional introduction of alien species are known and understood, not only by the citizens and institutions of the country but also by foreign importers and tourists.

7In social marketing, marketing principles and techniques are used to lead the public to accept, reject, modify or cease certain behaviour patterns, in their own interests or those of society. It is used to address public health problems such as AIDS. The Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP) argues more for this type of strategy and has enumerated the stages involved (see paper by E. Gozlan et al.).


8Many Pacific states have run communication campaigns on the dangers if invasive species, but there no study of their impact and measurable results has been published. It is also difficult to properly analyse such campaigns out of context, without the perspective of earlier campaigns or a broader campaign of which they are part. Nonetheless, below we look at four fairly complementary information, awareness and public participation drives. A detailed analysis grid was used to pick out the main features of the communication strategies used in different places (see paper by E. Gozlan et al.).

Australia: a weeds information and awareness programme

9In Australia, more than 125,000 plant species can be legally imported with no weed risk assessment, including many agricultural and environmental weeds that represent a serious threat to agriculture and the environment. Some are sold in garden shops, despite Australia’s world-renowned prevention system. A scientific information programme was launched by the Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Weed Management (CRC). Its aim is to protect ecosystems and farming systems by expanding and promoting integrated crop management systems based on sound science. The target audience includes policy makers, those whose work is connected with crop management, scientific experts and the general public. The idea is also to train future researchers, policy makers and professionals and to encourage awareness among school pupils and students. The programme uses various media (website, educational documents and programmes for all school levels, online games and animations). No data are available as yet to indicate how effective it is.

French Polynesia: a successful campaign to raise awareness and involve the public

10The purpose was to control invasion of some Polynesian islands by Miconia calvescens. The campaign set out to make the population aware of the problem, obtain its support for and participation in the control programme, educate children and make it possible to identify any new invasion at an early stage. Poster campaigns, intervention at scientific events and work with children in schools and in the field all played a large part, while the press, radio and TV actively relayed the information. The results are very encouraging. In particular, the population (hunters especially) have participated, notifying the authorities of a number of new, remote or distant M. calvescens stations.

New Zealand: a programme sensitive to linguistic and cultural minorities

11One of New Zealand’s weed programmes, in English, is similar in many ways to the Australian programme. But in 2002, a parallel programme was launched, to mainstream the Chinese community’s involvement in conservation. A consortium was set up, the Chinese Conservation Education Trust, with an opening ceremony that blended Maori, Chinese and European cultures and traditions. There have been three types of awareness raising activity: educational outings, trips to quarantine centres, and regular seminars about CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) and its relevance to Chinese medicine.

Hawaii: a campaign that opted for a sensational approach

12The Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species (CGAPS), which groups a number of Hawaiian institutions, published an informative brochure on the dangers of invasive species, their origins, and recommendations for prevention? with a special phone number to call for anyone who spotted one of them. The tone and the form were deliberately alarmist: black flyleaf, alarmist text inside printed in black on a red ground, repulsive photographs, images of distraught farmers, etc. It undoubtedly makes an impression, but it cannot be more than a useful addition to other forms of information dissemination carried out at the same time.

13These examples show that authorities tend to prefer awareness campaigns to social marketing approaches. Furthermore, all these campaigns were part of broader prevention or control campaigns. Most gave information not only about risks but also about what was being done to combat the pest. And finally in each case the authorities responsible chose ambitious programmes within the framework of a government institution.


14In New Caledonia, a certain number of initiatives have been undertaken to inform the public about the problem of invasive species (leaflets in the Southern Province, a page on Northern Province’s Website), but these are not yet large-scale information campaigns. Major campaigns have been run for other risks, however, and we can draw some conclusions from their successes and failures. In particular, as in the above examples, information drives seem to have amplified the effectiveness of well-designed programmes, but had little impact where the programme itself was too flawed.

15For example, the many bushfire information and awareness campaigns conducted in the past fifteen years seem to reveal their limitations when they are conducted in isolation, i.e. without a proper fire risk management programme. From a socio-economic study conducted in Southern Province it emerges that residents are aware of the problem and feel genuinely involved. But the eco-wardens’ analysis show that some fires are deliberately started for economic reasons such as driving game or protecting crops from pigs, and above all that the warning and control system had serious defects, e.g. no free phone number to call. This suggests that information will not be effective unless it is part of a programme that brings real solutions to the problems in concerned.

16The dengue fever control campaign on the other hand was a success. The health authorities has received a shock from the 2003 epidemic, in which 17 people died, and in early 2004 were worrying because all the conditions were there for a renewed epidemic. The only possible control method was to control the mosquito vectors in the areas concerned by eliminating their breeding sites. But there were innumerable small bodies of stagnant water for mosquitoes to breed in and public participation was essential. With the idea of combating residents’ passiveness, the campaign consisted of one day of general mobilisation throughout New Caledonia, on the government’s initiative, with a media campaign and distribution of antidengue kits (100-litre bags of anti-dengue with instructions for use). The result was a spectacular drop in indicators in all districts. The simplicity of the message, regarding both the purpose of the campaign and the action required, the collective dynamic and the brief, one-off nature of the campaign doubtless contributed to its success.

17Another awareness campaign in New Caledonia concerned water management in the Loyalty Islands. This was part of a broad programme to help conserve water resources. The aim was to teach local communities to reconcile development projects with water management needs. Much work was done over a period of three years, including surveys on attitudes to water, mobilisation of all the information media, and training for staff in the technical services. This was another successful campaign, as technical staff and residents becoming proficient in using the decision aids and methods.

18The campaign to control banana bunchy top disease failed to persuade the population that it was in their interest to eradicate the disease by destroying contaminated banana plants, and that they had nothing to lose by it (see p. 199). The aim was to persuade the population to participate in eradicating the virus. According to an ongoing field survey, the failure was not due to poor dissemination of the message? over 90% of people interviewed had heard of the campaign, 80% of them from television? nor to ethnic particularities. Some survey responses reveal that part of the population lacks confidence in the authorities. For example, squatters thought the measure was intended to force them to stop growing their own bananas and buy them in the markets instead, for the benefit of the farmers.


19The particular features of the New Caledonian situation include its institutional structure, geographical characteristics and some cultural features. In institutional terms, since the Matignon accords responsibility for environ-mental matters mainly falls to the three province authorities. With no national body responsible for such issues, there is no structure with sufficient funds to set up any large-scale programme. In geographical terms, with all the islands depending on Grande-Terre for trade, inter-island transport links require a targeted information drive. In terms of culture and language, with 28 languages in more or less common use plus immigrant communities’ languages, and most of the media using french, additional means are required to reach all population groups. This is especially relevant because some recently arrived immigrant groups maintain strong links with their country of origin, which may encourage them to bring in alien species. Different ethnic communities may have widely differing attitudes to particular species.

20It may be useful for the three provinces to set up a common structure responsible for environmental issues. This structure would involve the New Caledonian voluntary sector, local research bodies and industry. Before any awareness campaign, critical points for invasion hazards should be identified, target groups identified and messages properly conceived. Field work should be done to identify perceptions and beliefs, and to find credible information relays. A multitude of means exist to communicate messages, using domestic passenger transport, local festivities, etc. and images that are meaningful to each target group.

© IRD Éditions, 2006

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