Plans to ban the sale of Channa and three aquatic plant species across the whole of the UK have had a reprieve following a challenge by OATA to the EU.

A proposal by Spain had put the whole Channa genus in jeopardy but the European Commission has announced that no animal or plant species will be listed for a ban in 2018 while they examine the process for implementing such bans.

OATA’s Dr Tracey King put together a detailed rebuttal of the Spanish risk assessment for Channa, effectively pulling apart the reasons put forward for stopping the sale and keeping of the fish. OATA joined forces with the European Pet Organisation and Ornamental Fish International to help make its case for Channa.

“It’s highly unusual for a whole genus to be put forward for a ban and this is another example of a species that just would not flourish and breed in UK waters,” said OATA’s Chief Executive Dominic Whitmee.

“One Channa species (Argus) is rightly banned in the UK because it has the potential to become invasive and licences are required in Scotland for other Channa species so there are already adequate restrictions in place within the UK.

“This was one of our main points to the EU. There are regional measures that Spain or other Southern European countries can take if certain Channa species are causing problems – although we have to say the risk assessment they put forward did not demonstrate a significant issue. There is no need to ban the genus across the whole of the EU, especially on such flimsy evidence.

“Risk assessments are there for a reason. They should provide robust evidence of an actual problem. So we are pleased that the European Commission has announced a review of the risk assessment process which we hope will ensure this kind of proposal cannot be put forward in future.”

The next round of proposals from EU member states for bans on selling or keeping certain invasive species are expected this month so Channa and the three plant species Gymnocoronis spilanthoides (Senegal tea plant), Pistia stratiotes (Water lettuce) and Salvinia molesta (salvinia) may still return to the table for a ban in 2019, the year the UK will leave the EU.

“We will have to see what arguments Spain puts forward and will challenge its evidence if we do not think it is good enough. To that end we want to hear from businesses that sell Channa and people who keep them to find out the species that are kept and the conditions they need to flourish. We would also be interested in hearing more about how important the plant species are to the trade. We believe this information will help us to demonstrate they are not an invasive threat to the UK.”

The UK will leave the European Union in 2019 and it will depend on the transitional arrangements as to whether any further bans in that year will affect the UK.

Thank you to Colin Dunlop for the use of the photo.