Five aquatic plants to be banned in the UK

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The UK government has announced that five commonly traded aquatic plants are to be banned within the UK.

Taking effect from April 2014, Water fern (Azolla), Parrot’s feather (Myriophyllum), Floating pennywort (Hydrocotyle), Water primrose (Ludwigia) and Australian swamp stonecrop (Crassula) will all be illegal to trade.

Continuing to sell these species beyond that date will result in a fine of up to £5,000, and a potential six months in prison.

It might come as little surprise that the above species have finally been pulled from sale, as all have been known to be problematic for many years. All have been reported choking waterways at various points around the country, leaving ecological charities and environmental workers to tidy away the crawling overgrowth in rivers, ponds and canals.

In total, the cost of non-native invasive species to the UK is a staggering £1.7 billion a year. That in mind, it’s likely that very few people will be sad to see these five go.

The problem of non-native invasive species has been steadily increasing. One recent survey found that there were nearly 1,800 non-native plants finding new potential on UK shores.

The damage that such plants can bring is huge. There’s the guzzling of oxygen from water, as well as the blanketing effect of shielding light from the water underneath, which can impact on fish lives.

OATA has been advising against the sale and keeping of these plants for at least a decade, and has historically produced advisory posters for the keeping and correct disposal of them. However, it looks as though their cautionary words had generally fallen on deaf or unsympathetic ears, as the problem continued to spread.

In the event, it would appear that Defra’s resolve finally snapped, and that more drastic action has been taken.

We take this opportunity to remind aquarists and pondkeepers that anyone owning these plants has an obligation NOT to dispose of them into public waterways, as this will result in prosecution under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

The ban is deferred until 2014 to allows for retailers to deal with existing stock, and source alternatives.

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