29 January 2013

OATA has saved the aquatics industry about £3 million in lost sales after preventing a ban on three plants originally on a DEFRA prohibition hot list.

News was announced this week that DEFRA is finally stopping the sale of five plants, some of which OATA has recommended that retailers do not to sell for more than a decade.

But successful campaigning by the trade association, which lobbies on behalf of the industry, means oxygenators such as Lagarosiphon, and also water hyacinth and water lettuce will still remain on shop shelves following the ban announcement.

However, OATA tempered the good news with a note of caution for the future, calling on all involved in the sale of aquatic plants and fish to ‘up their game’ in encouraging the public to responsibly dispose of unwanted or excess plants or pets.

“When the sales ban was first suggested the range of species was rather longer because it included Lagarosiphon, water hyacinth and water lettuce,” explained OATA Chief Executive Keith Davenport.

“Losing these three plants would have been a major blow to the whole trade, losing them an estimated £3 million a year in sales. OATA recognised this, and campaigned long and hard to make the proposed prohibition list as short as possible, while not losing sight of the need to address the issue of garden pond plants appearing in the wild. Our work with DEFRA means these three plants – originally on the banned list – will continue to be sold which we think is a really positive outcome for traders at such a difficult economic time.”

But OATA is warning the issue of non-native invasive plants is far from over and wants everyone in the industry – from retailers to dry goods manufacturers – to up their game in encouraging people not to get rid of unwanted plants or pets in the wild.

“The government recognised that the industry’s willingness to promote the ‘Be Plant Wise’ did play a significant part in encouraging people to be responsible. But we can’t become complacent and now’s the time for us all to up our game. As an industry, we need to take the lead and demonstrate that tighter controls are not needed and could never be as dynamic and effective as the industry’s own efforts.

“We all need to play our part in shouting the message loud and clear so that customers don’t get rid of unwanted plants – and pets – into the wild. OATA is the ‘voice of the industry’ – and this victory clearly demonstrates that DEFRA listens to our voice – but we also need the industry to support and join us in this fight.”

The five plants banned by DEFRA are:

  • Water Fern
  • Parrot’s Feather
  • Floating Pennywort
  • Australian swamp stone crop (New Zealand Pygmyweed)
  • Water Primrose

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