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Introduction of non-native species into UK wildlife

Over the centuries, non -native species (species not natural to the UK)have been introduced accidentally or deliberately into UK natural environment. They constitute a significant threat to the continued wellbeing and preservation of native UK species. The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology estimates that the introduction of non-native species into the UK ecosystem has over the years cost the economy several billions of pounds. Please note however that not all non-native species have proven detrimental to UK wildlife and nature. A good example is wheat which have produced great benefits for the UK agricultural sector. However, we cannot ignore the problems associated with unlawfully introduced non-species into UK wildlife.

Laws have been developed (at the international and national levels) to tackle these problems.They include:

International

  • The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn 1979)
  • UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982
  • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)1992

European

  • The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitat (Bern1979)
  • Directive 92/43/EC on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora (the Habitats Directive 1992)

The UK is party to these agreements and has implemented them into national law. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (NERC) 2006 are the key laws that tackle the threat of non-native species and their impact on the UK ecosystems.

National (Focus on England and Wales)

The Wildlife and Countryside Act (WCA) 1981
The Act makes it an offence to release into the wild any animal, plant or micro-organisms not ordinarily resident to the UK or which constitutes a known threat or is listed in Schedule 9 of the Act. Schedule 9 species includes plants such as Japanese Knotweed, which has an adverse impact on local plants and Giant Hogweeds that erodes river banks and increases river flooding risks in the country. It is also an offence to release schedule 9 animals like crayfish species (other than native white clawed crayfish) into the wild. This ban is to tackle the problem caused to British crayfish, when non-native crayfish species like the signal crayfish were released in the 1970s and 1980s. The signal crayfish carried a fungal diseaseof which the native white clawed crayfish had no defence. Other schedule 9 species are listed in the WCA 1981.
Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (NERC) 2006
The NERC Act amends the WCA 1981 and provides the Secretary of State with powers to ban the sale of invasive non-native species known to cause damage to wildlife in England and Wales. It also provides the Secretary of State with additional powers to issue or approve codes relating to non-native species covered by the WCA 1981

Legislation

International

UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)1992

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn 1979)

European

The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitat (Bern 1979)

Directive 92/43/EC on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora (the Habitats Directive 1992)

National (England and Wales only)

The Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932

Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976

The Bees Act 1980

The Wildlife and Countryside Act (WCA) 1981: Schedule 9 species

Environmental Protection Act 1990 (contains limited provisions relating to disposal of waste containing Japanese Knotweed)

Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000

Plant Health (England) Order 2005

Plant Health (Wales) Order 2006

Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (NERC) 2006

The Plant Health (Wales) (Amendment) Order 2008

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