31 July 2017

The European Union is working on its next list of invasive species to ban across Member States under the EU Alien Invasive Species Regulation. Confusingly this is called the Second Review which has produced a third list. Yet again, the ornamental aquatic industry seems to be disproportionately affected with one fish species and four plant species featuring on the list of 11.

We are particularly concerned by the inclusion of the whole Channa genus on this list, which effectively seeks to ban all species of this fish. Currently in England and Wales Channa argus is banned from sale but no others, although all Channa species are restricted in Scotland – you need a special licence to keep them.

The four aquatic plant species under review are:

  • Gymnocoronis spilanthoides (Senegal tea plant)
  • Hygrophila polysperma (Indian waterweed)
  • Salvinia molesta (salvinia)
  • Pistia stratiotes (Water lettuce)

We have already made representations to Defra about this list. Defra is the lead authority that will take comments to the European Union on this latest set of proposals. We would also encourage other interested groups to make comments as well – such as hobby groups whose members keep the fish species mentioned.

What can you do?

We would strongly urge aquarists who keep Channa and relevant hobby groups to make representations about the Channa listing.

  • Get your MP on board and ask them to lobby Defra on your behalf. You can do this easily online here. We’ve made some suggestions about what you can include in an email here but it’s really important to personalise your email with your own experiences. MPs and Government departments tend to ignore standard letters and makes it less likely you will get a response. And OATA would love to see any responses you get!
  • Email the Companion Animal Sector Council which will lobby on behalf of fishkeepers.
  • Email OATA – we want to hear from committed Channa keepers, particularly with technical information about keeping these fish, eg temperature parameters and breeding information, to show they cannot survive in British waters. We also want to build up a picture of citizen science in this area so if you are involved in interesting projects involving Channa, especially with external organisations, then tell us about what you’re doing.

Here’s what we’ve had to say to Defra about the proposed species.

Channa spp. (snakeheads)

We oppose any listing that is made at a genus level as many Channa species are tropical/subtropical and cannot over-winter in UK waters. In compliance with the EU’s own rules, risk assessments must be made on a species by species basis.

However, we would accept a specific listing to the prohibition of Channa argus (Northern snakehead) because of its wide thermal tolerance range in other areas of the EU where it is not already banned.

Read the EU’s reasoning for listing Channa here.

Aquatic plant species: Gymnocoronis spilanthoides (Senegal tea plant); Hygrophila polysperma (Indian waterweed); Salvinia molesta (salvinia); and, Pistia stratiotes (Water lettuce)

We do not believe these four aquatic species have the potential to become invasive in the UK, or indeed many of the more northerly Member States of the EU. We believe the four plants should be regionally controlled and would support the recommendations made in the accompanying Pest Risk Analysis documents that outline specific geographical areas to limit or monitor these plants (which do not include the UK).

You can find out more about all the prosposed listings here.

Thank you to Colin Dunlop for providing the photo which shows Channa gachua with fry. This is a subtropical species with many local variants and is widespread across SE Asia. Some gachua are tropical and don’t like the cold. Pictured is one half of a pair which are excellent parents and the female feeds the babies on infertile eggs that she lays for them like a snow-storm, says Colin.