EU to ban sale of invasive species

17th April 2014

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  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Prevention & Control ,
  • EU ,
  • Natural resources


Agata Wolk-Lewanowicz

The European parliament has backed new legislation that will ban the movement and release of invasive alien species across the bloc

MEPs have voted overwhelming in favour of introducing a regulation that will require member states to improve efforts to prevent the spread of non-native species, such as the “killer shrimp” and Japanese knotweed, which are damaging ecosystems and causing biodiversity loss.

Under the proposed rules, a government will have to analyse how invasive alien species are entering and moving across the country, set up surveillance checks at its borders and develop long-term plans on managing such species.

The legislation will create a list of priority species, described as of “union concern”, which must not be “introduced, transported, placed on the market, kept, bred, grown or released in the environment,” states the text.

A proposal to limit the list to just 50 species was rejected during negotiations between EU policymakers, to enable the bloc to react quickly to new emerging threats. MEPs also inserted provisions that will ensure that species that are a concern only for a single member state can also be tackled under the new regulation.

“Invasive alien species cause damage worth at least €12 billion every year in the EU and many member states already spend considerable resources in dealing with them”, said Czech MEP Pavel Poc, who took the legislation through parliament.

“Their 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.”

UK Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder, one of the lead negotiators on the regulation, commented: “Invasive species can cause huge damage to native plants and wildlife, but they also pose a threat to agriculture, buildings and to human health. They can be easily spread through trade, travel as well as the pet trade, so it’s vital we work alongside neighbouring countries to combat them.

“We need action at the local level to minimise the damage being caused, but even more important is preventative action at the national and European level to stop these troublesome species being introduced in the first place.”

The new regulation will pass into law once it has been formally adopted by the European council.

Once in force, it will be down to member states to apply appropriate penalties for breaching the legislation. National governments will also be able to grant “specialised establishments” permits to carry out commercial activities with invasive species, where authorised by the commission.

MEPs have requested that a forum is set up to advise on the scientific aspects of applying the new rules and how the “polluter pays” principle could be used for the recovery of costs associated with restoring habitats following the introduction of alien species.

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