COMMONS

Environmental Audit Committee launch inquiry on invasive species

12 December 2013

The Environmental Audit Committee is launching a new inquiry on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species.

Background

The Committee is following up its 2012 Wildlife Crime report by undertaking an inquiry to examine further the Government’s policy on invasive species and the implications of the European Commission’s draft EU Directive on ‘the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species’  published in September 2013.

The Commission estimates that there are 12,000 non-native species within Europes, of which 10-15% are ‘invasive’ and cause harm. The draft directive seeks to unify measures for tackling invasive species across Europe. The European Commission proposes that Member States risk assess invasive species in their countries, with the results being used to compile a list of 50 of the 1500 ‘species of concern’ across the EU – about 3% of the total.

States will be required to take steps to prevent listed species from entering their country, to act quickly to eradicate species that show signs of becoming established, and to manage those that are already widespread to minimise their potential to cause harm. The list of 50 species would be decided within a year of the Directive being agreed.

United Kingdom Biodiversity Indicators

In the UK, the 2013 Biodiversity Indicators results show a growing prevalence of 49 target species monitored by Defra. The Government is reviewing the 2008 Invasive Non-Native Species Framework Strategy for Great Britain, with a possible revised strategy in 2014. In addition, the Law Commission is undertaking a review of wildlife legislation, including the law on invasive species.

Scotland

In Scotland, it an offence to release any plants or animals "outwith their native range" and the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 provides for Species Control Orders for the control or eradication of invasive species.

Terms of reference

The inquiry will examine: -

  • The principal drivers of the rising number of invasive species.
  • The adequacy of understanding and data on invasive species, and the extent of the harm they cause, to be able to devise strategies to address them.
  • The adequacy of the draft EU Regulation and its relevance to the situation in the UK: -
  1. The proposed size of the list of species of concern;
  2. The criteria that should be used to identify the species of most  concern, including the weightings to be given to biodiversity, human health and economic considerations and the ‘precautionary principle’;
  3. The balance balance between the different strands of the response to invasive species: detection, prevention, containment/adaptation or eradication;
  4. The relative pros and cons of the Commission’s approach of a list of harmful species to tackle, rather than a list of safe species which would not be restricted;
  5. Any conflicts between the need to tackle invasive species and other environmental obligations.
  6. What the UK’s strategy should be and where, if at all, the UK should diverge from, or go further than, the proposed EU approach.
  7. The need for specific measures for promoting sustainable domestic production of plants, vegetables and animals in the UK which minimises the risk of importing invasive non-native species.
  8. The case for any change in the law regarding invasive species.
  9. Any lessons for England and Wales from the experience of Scotland’s invasive species legislation and controls.

The Committee is inviting evidence on these issues by Monday 13 January 2014, although later submissions may also be accepted. Evidence sessions will be held in January/February 2014.

Image: iStockphoto

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