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Resounding support for tripling UK budget for defences against ‘nature invaders’

24 October 2019

Charities across the conservation, wildlife, environment and recreation sectors, coordinated by Wildlife and Countryside Link[1], are overwhelmingly backing the hugely welcome calls to strengthen our defences against invasive plant and animal species, in a new report from the Environmental Audit Committee today (Fri 25 Oct).

This report is particularly timely as the risk of invasive species is set to soar given the increase in new trade routes that is likely to result from Brexit and climate change making the UK more hospitable to a wider range of invasive species. Currently invasive species cost the UK economy at least £2bn per year, and invasives are classed as one of the top 5 risks to nature and a critical driver of our declining biodiversity. Yet measures to protect and manage the risks from invasive species make up just 0.4% of the UK spend on biosecurity, totalling 0.9 million per year.

The Environmental Audit Committee has proposed a comprehensive and cost-effective suite of measures, which is vital to protecting our natural world, public health and our economy from the threats invasive species pose. Particularly welcome are calls to triple the budget for invasive species control and create an inspectorate to put it on an equal footing with other areas of plant and animal health. Moves proposed to ensure each Overseas Territory has up to date biosecurity legislation and adequate powers of enforcement by the end of 2020, would also have a huge impact in protecting international biodiversity as our overseas island territories are highly vulnerable to invasive species.

The Treasury has the power to make these recommendations a reality by announcing in the Budget next month the funding needed to get them off the ground.

Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: ‘When human actions bring invasive species like killer shrimps, the Asian tiger mosquito and the Quagga mussel to our shores, the results can devastate nature. These invaders can choke out native species, spread disease and strangle industry. Yet the Government’s defences against invasive species are decades behind animal and plant health security. It’s time to dedicate the funds and personnel needed to hold the line to defend wildlife.’

Dr Paul Walton, Head of Habitats and Species, RSPB: ‘We strongly support the Committee’s calls for a drastic step change of our approach in tackling the threat of invasive species. The multi-billion pound cost to the economy from damage by invasive species is set to soar in the next decade as new species arrive on our shores from expanded trade and climate change improves conditions for them to establish. Prevention is always better than cure, yet the budget for our first lines of invasive defence is relatively miniscule. We urge the Government to announce the extra-funding needed in the forth-coming Budget and Spending Review.’

Emily Smith, Environment Manager at Angling Trust: ‘Invasive species harm our businesses, economy, wildlife, landscapes and even our health. They present a major threat to fishing, replacing native fish species, decreasing water quality and increasing flood risk. It is vital that the Government addresses this multi-pronged threat as the EAC proposes, by putting the resources in place to hold it at bay. To be a world leader on the environment we must address the top risks to nature at home.’

Richard Atkinson, Waterways and Environment Policy Officer at British Canoeing says: ‘Prolific invasive weeds like Crassula Helmsii and floating pennywort are clogging up our rivers , killing off native species, and ruining our riverways for recreation, transport and fishing. With just 14% of our rivers in good health it is vital that the Government invests in tackling the invasive species putting our rivers at risk today and preventing the arrival of more tomorrow. The EAC has presented a comprehensive map on how to achieve this, which we want to see the Government put the funds and effort into navigating.’


Notes to editors:

1. Wildlife and Countryside Link (Link) is the largest environment and wildlife coalition in England, bringing together 54 organisations to use their strong joint voice for the protection of nature. Our members campaign to conserve, enhance and access our landscapes, animals, plants, habitats, rivers and seas. Together we have the support of over eight million people in the UK and directly protect over 750,000 hectares of land and 800 miles of coastline.

The following nine organisations support the calls within this press release: Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Angling Trust, Buglife, Freshwater Habitats Trust, Plantlife, RSPB, The Rivers Trust, The Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust

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