28 July 2016

Popular aquatic plant water hyacinth will soon disappear from UK ponds after the European Commission finally published its list of species of EU wide concern, as part of the Invasive Alien Species Regulation.

The list effectively bans long-term sale of water hyacinth in the UK, along with four other aquatic plants and the red-eared slider (terrapin).

According to advice issued by DEFRA, retailers and wholesalers have 12 months to clear their shelves of these species. Customers with water hyacinth in their ponds do not have to remove it but must not let it spread elsewhere while those with the affected terrapin species must ensure they do not breed and cannot pass them on to other people.

“We appreciate this will be very frustrating for many of our members. We made the case continuously that water hyacinth cannot survive UK winters so effectively all plants in ponds at the moment will naturally die out. Unless shops have a contract with a wholesaler to supply for next year, customers will not be able to replace this popular pond plant next season,” explained OATA’s Chief Executive Dominic Whitmee.

“It’s very disappointing that despite my predecessor Keith’s concerted efforts the European Commission failed to recognise the scientific evidence and the economic impacts on legitimate businesses in the UK where there is clearly no threat of invasion from water hyacinth, especially when measures are already in place to address the threat in countries where there has been a problem.”

The European Commission is already working on the next list of species, which does contain more plants sold within the ornamental aquatic industry.

“We will certainly be talking to DEFRA to try to make sure the European Commission takes full and proper account of the scientific facts and the economic impacts when listing further species. However, we also have to be realistic because we’re well aware that since the Brexit vote the UK’s voice in Europe is much diminished so it will be much harder to ensure our industry’s voice is properly heard.

“And we also have to be mindful that if there is legitimate concern about a plant’s invasive nature within the UK it’s not in the industry’s interests to support the sale of these. But evidence must back this up.”

The current list of 37 species of EU wide concern will come into force on 3 August 2016. The four aquatic plants listed are water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), cabomba (Cabomba caroliniana), curly waterweed (Lagarosiphon major often inaccurately called Elodea crispa) and American skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) along with the red-eared slider terrapin (Trachemys scripta elegans). The list also contains five aquatic plants that are already banned from sale in the UK.

More information about the list and what it means for the industry can be found here.