Aquatic plants to be banned

Invasive plant ban welcomed by the Trust

The Angling Trust has warmly welcomed Environment Minister Richard Benyon’s announcement today that the sale of five invasive non-native aquatic plant species is to be banned to protect the water environment.  Angling’s representative body has called for such a ban on several occasions in the past four years, in partnership with other organisations such as the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

These foreign invaders have caused huge damage to coarse and game fisheries in rivers, canals and lakes because they smother the water surface preventing light getting into the water.  When they die and rot, they suck oxygen out of the water which can lead to fish kills and a decline in invertebrate numbers.  Managing the rapid spread of these species costs the taxpayer billions of pounds each year – money which would be better spent tackling pollution, over-abstraction and barriers to coarse and game fish migration.

They have been sold in garden centres for decades and have escaped from garden ponds through flooding and when people have cleared out their ponds without understanding the damage that they can do. By banning them, the risk of outbreaks will be greatly reduced.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust & Fish Legal said: 'This is very welcome news and a strong decision from a Minister who has demonstrated that he has a good understanding of the issues affecting the water environment and in particular non-native invasive species.'

'Other island nations around the world take biosecurity very seriously and the sale of these plants has gone on far too long. We urge all gardeners who have any of these species in their ponds to remove and destroy them.'

1. There is a guide to aquatic invasive species on the Angling Trust website here.

2. Defra Press Release: 

Sale of invasive water plants banned to protect wildlife 

The sale of five invasive non-native aquatic plant species is to be banned in order to protect wildlife Environment Minister Richard Benyon announced today.

The banned plants are Water Fern, Parrot’s Feather, Floating Pennywort, Australian Swamp Stone-crop (New Zealand Pygmyweed), and Water Primrose.

Invasive non-native species can have a devastating cost to the economy, costing £1.7 billion to control. Floating pennywort, which can grow up to eight inches a day, costs the British economy £23.5 million per year.

Environment minister Richard Benyon said: 'Tough laws to curb the sale of these plants could save the country millions of pounds as well as protecting wildlife such as fish and native plants.But as well as saving money and protecting wildlife the ban will also help maintain access to rivers and lakes for anglers and watersport fans.'

In the past the plants have been sold and planted in garden ponds, but have escaped into the wild taking over from native species and damaging some of our most sensitive habitats.The plants form dense mats in water, depleting oxygen and light availability, causing declines in the numbers of fish and other aquatic species. They also reduce access to waterways for boating and angling and increase flood risk which, taken together, can cost millions of pounds per year.

The ban means that all retailers will now have to stop selling these plants or face a fine of up to £5,000 and possibly up to six months in prison. Retailers have a year to adjust to the ban.

Defra, trade representatives and conservation bodies, have also been working to raise awareness of garden owners and horticulturalists to the dangers of spreading non-native species through the Be Plant Wise campaign and have given widespread support to the ban.

Keith Davenport of the Ornamental and Aquatic trades association said: 'We’ve recommended retailers not to sell these five plant species, in some instances, for at least a decade. So this is welcome news from Defra, making it very clear there is now a ban in place. We will continue to actively encourage our members to support the Be Plant Wise campaign.'

The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust’s Head of Conservation Policy, Carrie Hume said: 'Thankfully, some of the most destructive non-native plants will no longer be on sale in our garden centres. This is the right move. The environmental and economic cost of dealing with this problem is already huge and dealing with it now is a great saving for the future.'