The European Parliament has backed proposals to tackle the spread of non-native animals and plants throughout the EU. It is estimated that over the past 20 years more than 12,000 invasive species have been recorded in Europe, costing nearly £10 billion annually in damage to local ecosystems. In the UK, where there are an estimated 2,000 invasive species present, the bill is thought to be at least £1.7bn a year.
These species can pose a major threat to local biodiversity. This includes the American mink, which has devastated local wildlife in parts of the UK, or “demon shrimp” which originated from the Black Sea and has disrupted ecosystems in Britain’s rivers and lakes. Some species such as Japanese knotweed have also caused significant damage to buildings while other pests have damaged agricultural yields or threatened human health by spreading disease.
Under the proposals, national governments would have to work together to detect invasive species placed on a list of high concern and to put in place measures to minimise the harm they cause. Initially it was proposed that this list should have a fixed cap of 50 non-native species, but MEPs have called for a more flexible approach that can be rapidly adapted to deal with new threats. The new law will require EU countries to analyse how invasive species enter the country, step up official checks at EU borders and develop long-term action plans on how to manage the troublesome species.
Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder, who was one of the lead negotiators on the legislation in the European Parliament’s trade committee, 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 do not respect national borders and 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.”
Notes to Editors
The full report voted on today can be found here. The proposal must now be approved by national governments in the EU Council before it becomes law.
The cost of Invasive non-native species (INNS) to the British economy is estimated at £1.7 billion a year.