There are a lot of press reports today about a report from the House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee on invasive non-native species which is generating good coverage of the issue.

Bigger news though is that today the European Parliament has voted in the Invasive Alien Species Regulation which means this law will come into force next year. The regulation will see the creation of a black list of species ‘of EU concern’ over the next year which will effectively ban the possession, transport, selling or growing of these species.

While it’s yet to be decided what’s to go on this hit-list, most of the likely species are not related to the ornamental aquatic trade, although we have some concerns that water hyacinth – a popular garden pond plant – and lionfish could be contenders.

This new Regulation isn’t directly related to our #handsoffmyhobby campaign, but the issues behind it are. Many animal rights group point to the invasive potential of species imported by the ornamental fish industry as a reason to ban them. But fish and plants kept properly in an aquarium or pond cannot become invasive if they stay there. OATA actually welcomes this particular piece of EU regulation because we think it will lead to a more level playing field across Europe, although throughout our responses to consultations on it we’ve made the point that a ‘one size fits all’ approach for the whole of Europe isn’t the right way to go.

If businesses selling fish and plants – and the people who buy them – act responsibly then plants and animals that are not native to these shores will not become a problem to the UK countryside. If we want to keep this trade and hobby for the future then we must all play our part by never releasing fish into rivers or streams and by composting plants very carefully.

“Nothing that we trade in should be allowed to cause any harm to the local environment and we should do all we can to avoid this,” said OATA Chief Executive Keith Davenport.

“We need to tell our friends and promote the ‘don’t release’ message in our shops and on our products because we must continue to demonstrate that this industry leads the way in raising awareness about the issues around invasives.”