Invasive Species Ban Gets EU Approval
New legislation aimed at stopping the spread of invasive non-native species such as Japanese knotweed has been approved by the European Parliament.
On the same day as a UK Parliamentary report called for greater powers to control alien species, MEPs voted by 606 to 36 in favour of proposals to ban the possession, transport, selling, or growing of species declared to be of “Union concern”.
Initial plans to limit the Europe-wide “blacklist” of non-native species to 50 have been shelved, while the proposed law also includes provision to ramp up official checks at European borders. Member states will be required to devise management plans to tackle the most troublesome invasive alien species.
Czech Republic MEP Pavel Poc, who steered the legislation through the European Parliament, said: “Efforts are very often not effective, simply because the spread of these species does not stop at national borders. Cooperation among the member states is therefore crucial.”
Following the vote by MEPs, the new legislation will need to be approved by the Council of Ministers before formally becoming law, a process that is expected to take place within the next few months.
Report By MPs Calls For Tougher Laws
The vote in the European Parliament came on the same day as a new publication from an influential group of UK MPs demanded greater legal powers to tackle invasive plants and animals.
The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee’s Invasive Non-Native Species report claimed “better prevention, surveillance, monitoring, eradication, and long-term control measures” all needed to be implemented. MPs criticised the current system of listing species to be monitored in England and Wales for being “too slow”, and recommended the introduction of species control orders similar to the process the operates in Scotland.
While existing wildlife laws prohibit the release of non-native species, they have never been used to prosecute anyone, and the report argues the current legislation is “unlikely to provide the level of protection now needed”.
Committee Chair Joan Walley MP commented: “It is too expensive to control or eradicate all invasive species, so we have to be smart and pick the fights we know we can win. Identifying potentially invasive species prior to arrival is critical, as once organisms like the frightening Asian Hornet are here, they can be very difficult to control.”
There are an estimated 12,000 alien species in Europe. Only a minority, however, are invasive and actually have a negative impact. In 2012, there were 1,875 non-native species found in the UK – 10 more than the previous year – of which 282 had become invasive.
The economic and ecological damage caused by non-native species across Europe is estimated to cost around €12 billion a year. In the UK alone, Japanese knotweed costs around £1.5 billion a year to eradicate, while removing rhododendron from Snowdonia National Park is predicted to cost more than £10 million.