The Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA) has distributed new posters to aquatic centres to make it clear to pond owners that's it's illegal and irresponsible to dump unwanted plants and fish in Britain's rivers, lakes and streams.
A small number of irresponsible pond owners who've allowed their plants to escape, or dumped unwanted aquatics, have caused the spread of non-native species into the wild, with sometimes dire consequences for our native flora and fauna.
The government, conservation bodies and consumer watchdogs have all expressed concern at the problem, as have the aquatic trade, and OATA has actively been educating its members and the public for many years.
The posters and information OATA is issuing to its members explains the problems of releasing both plants and fish into the wild, as well as the consequences; both for the environment and for the pond owner; in the form of a 2500 fine!
OATA says that the government does recognise the benefits of fishkeeping and pond ownership, but the hobby needs fishkeepers to behave responsibly.
Instead of dumping excess aquatic plants in streams, rivers, canals or lakes, OATA recommends composting them and provides some handy hints on how to turn your unwanted plants into nutritious compost for your garden.
The poster says: "It is an offence to release or allow the escape to the wild of any animal, which is a kind not ordinarily resident in and is not a regular visitor to England and Wales in the wild state. This applies to fish, amphibians and reptiles, and requires that all reasonable care and due diligence is taken to avoid their escape into the wild. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in prosecution, with fines up to a maximum of 2500."
Some pond plants pose so much of a threat to the environment if they are illegally released or escape that OATA has recommend that shops do not stock certain species.
New Zealand water stonecrop, Crassula helmsii (sold in the trade as Tillea recurva) is a particularly invasive one, as is the Floating pennywort, Hydrocotyle ranunculoides, both species OATA suggests retailers do not sell.
Says OATA: "Additionally, we strongly recommend that members either find an alternative to, or stop selling Parrots feather, Myriophyllum aquaticum. Significant sales of this species occur each year. However, equally clearly it has become a pest in the southwest of England and is spreading northwards. Retail members have been advised to seek reassurances that any species of the genus Myriophyllum that they might be offered are not frost tolerant, before offering them for sale as pond plants."
The plant poster has been produced so shops can photocopy it and hand it out to pond owners whenever they buy a new plant for their pond.
A similar poster explaining why it's a bad idea to release unwanted fish into the wild has accompanied the plant poster.
If any PFK readers have fish that have outgrown their pond or aquarium and can't find new homes for them, we would urge them to call the office for advice and to never release them into the wild.