The Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association has informed Practical Fishkeeping that the fight to keep buying in Apple snails from abroad has been lost.
At the end of November 2012, it will be illegal for aquatic retailers, wholesalers, importers or hobbyists to bring in Apple snails, Pomacea spp. to the UK.
The ban was proposed and then took affect after colonies of Apple snails were found in rice paddies around the Ebro River Delta in eastern spain.
The Ebro river is already filled with giant, non-native carp and Wels catfish so it would appear the discovery of another invasive species was a step too far.
The move could cost the UK aquatic trade up to £300,000.
Climate matching exercise
As a result in part of a climate matching exercise it was considered that the naturally occurring range of the snails in South America could potentially be matched by climates inside the UK.
It is not known at this time whether the populations in Spain are permanent or ephemeral, but it appears that this has little effect on the outcome.
"This move demonstrates the dangers of the EC adopting a “one size fits all” policy," said the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association.
Here at PFK we would be very surprised if Apple snails could survive a UK winter, considering they are native to tropical South America.
Hobbyists need to take no action at this time as possession of the snails remains legal so far, although the EC decision does also include the "spreading" of them within the union. Retailers can continue to sell their imported stock until they run out.
UK Plant Health Services
UK Plant Health intend to implement the EC decision in the following way: "As regards the prohibition on spreading Pomacea, the main focus will be on preventing spread to the open environment.
"An awareness raising programme targeted at those trading in Pomacea as well as those keeping Pomacea will provide advice on safe disposal etc.
"Providing this advice is followed, with no evidence in official surveillance of Pomacea reaching the wider environment, this will allow existing stocks to be traded and then maintained under contained conditions (in fish tanks etc) until the end of their natural life, avoiding the need for more stringent action, such as an immediate prohibition on further sales.
"This situation will need to be kept under review in the light of experience – for instance if outbreaks occur.
"The expectation is that, over time, the number of Pomacea being sold will reduce and eventually halt altogether.
"Similarly, the number of Pomacea in aquariums and individual homes etc will gradually reduce.
"The UK Plant Health Services believe that this represents the most proportionate approach in the circumstances, but will consider enforcement action in specific situations as necessary, for instance if there is evidence of the continued import or commercial reproduction of Pomacea, or of release to the wider environment."
OATA wishes to highlight that there is a new directive on invasives in production at the time of writing, and that they, and other trade groups, are fighting the one size fits all approach to EC import bans.
Never release non-native fish or plants into the wild as the consequences could mean catastrophic changes to the UK aquatic trade and hobby as we know it.
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