REVIEW OF NON-NATIVE SPECIES POLICY
1. Purpose of this Consultation
1.1 This consultation aims to build upon the Review of Non-Native Species Policy, published in March 2003. Led by defra but with significant Scottish representation through a number of bodies, this Review considered the wide range of problems caused by invasive non-native species, highlighted by the way that such species can transform our ecosystems, alter habitats and threaten native species. The Review identified the impact which non-native species can pose to economic interests, primarily agriculture forestry and infrastructure interests but also the risks that it can pose to public health. The Review offered a number of positive actions for Government and stakeholders to consider, one of which was to prioritise the most serious threats.
1.2 The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) identified the threat of non-native species as one of the primary threats to biodiversity and there is an obligation on Governments to address this complex and wide-ranging issue. Within Scotland, the lead Department is the Scottish Executive, whose Environment Group has primary responsibility for non-native policy, a devolved issue. The Executive draws heavily upon the advice and guidance from others in exercising this devolved policy matter primarily but not exclusively from Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission and other bodies as appropriate.
1.3 The Scottish Executive now wishes the views of consultees on 7 of the 8 Key Recommendations published in the March 2003 Report. The eighth Recommendation relates to legal aspects of the Review and was the subject of an earlier Consultation in August 2003 on the Legislative Proposals Contained within the Review of Non-Native Species Policy.
1.4 This further consultation paper identifies some important questions which have to be answered to determine the most effective way to develop and implement a non-native species strategy in Scotland. It is hoped that the responses of consultees will help define the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders.
1.5 There is much good work already taking place in Scotland on non-native issues, by Government, local authorities, other public bodies, environmental NGOs, the private sector, trade association interests and charitable organisations. And there will be others. But it is likely that Scotland as a whole can be benefit from a more cohesive approach with all key stakeholders contributing to solutions to resolve some of these issues.
2. Summary of Consultation Issues
2.1 The designation or creation of a single lead co-ordinating organisation to undertake the role of co-ordinating and ensuring consistency of application of non-native species policies across Government.
2.2 The development of comprehensive risk assessment procedures to assess the risks posed by non-native species and identifying and prioritising preventive action.
2.3 The development of codes of conduct to help prevent the introduction of invasive non-native species across all relevant sectors and involving all relevant stakeholders.
2.4 The development of a targeted education and awareness strategy involving all relevant sectors.
2.5 The establishment of adequate monitoring and surveillance arrangements for non-native species in Great Britain.
2.6 The establishment of policies to manage and control invasive non-native species currently prevent or newly arrived in the wild, and the development of environmental capacity to implement these provisions.
2.7 The full engagement of stakeholders in the development of invasive non-native species policies and actions through appropriate mechanisms.
3 Review of Non-Native Species Policy
3.1. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) imposes an international obligation on the United Kingdom to address the issue of invasive non-native species. Although nature conservation, including the handling of non-native species issues, is a devolved matter, there are some relevant issues such as Customs & Excise that are reserved and Scottish Ministers agreed that a Review of this issue should be undertaken on a GB basis in order to develop a suitable degree of co-ordination across Great Britain. Defra is the lead Whitehall Department.
3.2 Set up in March 2001, and chaired by representatives from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Review Group included representation from Devolved Administrations, other Government Departments, statutory nature conservation bodies, non Government organisations (NGOs), animal welfare and trade interests. The impact and potential threat posed by non-native species throughout Great Britain was reviewed by this Group, which also considered policy or legislative measures which might minimise existing or potential such threats. On 28 March 2003, the Government report entitled Review of non-native Species Policy, was published and outlined 8 Key Recommendations for improving the handling of non-native species issues. However, due to the fact that the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Bill had just completed its consultation process and was to be considered by the Scottish Parliament's Environment and Rural Development Committee during the 2003-04 Parliamentary Session, the Executive consulted separately on the legal aspects of that Review with the intention of incorporating appropriate measures into the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Bill At the time of preparing this Consultation Document, the Bill is being given further consideration by the Committee.
3.3 Defra has already consulted separately on the Review of Non-Native Species Policy as it applies specifically to England and Wales.
4 The role of the Scottish Executive and other public bodies in Scotland in addressing non native species.
4.1 Nature conservation policy is a devolved issue and responsibility for the development and implementation of related policy falls primarily to the Scottish Executive to administer. This is an important responsibility given Scotland's rich and varied natural heritage, be it plants, animals or their habitats. The Executive plays an important role in the conservation of these natural resources and their sustainable use. This includes nature conservation issues such as biodiversity, protected areas and species and wildlife criminal activity and it draws from a wide range of sources of advice to ensure that Scotland's natural heritage is afforded the maximum level of care and protection.
4.2 The threat posed by invasive non-native species is considerable, irrespective of whether their introduction and spread is deliberate or accidental. The innocent actions of others in the past may only be realised or fully appreciated many years later as a threat to Scotland's environment. That threat can come in many different forms and unless adequate and appropriate action is taken, the effects can be damaging. In some cases, the results can be irreversible with native Scottish flora and fauna potentially lost for all time.
4.3 The price to be paid for such actions is measured not just as a loss to Scotland's natural heritage but in economic terms too. Never has the term "prevention is better that the cure" been more clearly exemplified than the potentially high costs to be borne, invariably by the tax-payer, when the non-native species pose a threat to existing species. And the costs can escalate dramatically when that threat becomes reality.
4.4 The Scottish Executive is committed to addressing the issues contained in the recommendations of the Non-Native Review. The Executive recognises that this poses a fundamental conservation challenge for Scotland, that solutions are not clear-cut, and that actions taken may impact differently upon various sectors of Scottish life. There may even be environmental consequences that at this stage cannot be anticipated. But the threat posed to Scotland's natural heritage is real and the Executive, other key agencies and stakeholders should be prepared to take action based upon the best possible evidence available. The Executive recognises that the current arrangements in tackling this issue in Scotland can be improved and that there may be merit in assessing the effectiveness of the current structure and level of co-ordination across key bodies and agencies.
5. Issues to be addressed
Key Recommendation 1 - The UK Government and Devolved Administrations should designate or create a single lead co-ordinating organisation to undertake the role of co-ordinating and ensuring consistency of application of non-native species policies across Government.
5.1 In its response to the Review, the Government agreed that preventing introductions of non-native species is more cost effective than subsequent control once a species has been introduced. Prevention measures should therefore have the highest priority, with the aim of preventing new and unwanted invasive species being introduced in future, causing harm to our native ecosystems or other detrimental impacts.
5.2 The Scottish Executive aims to develop its research programme in support of this area of work, and to contribute to international discussions, where appropriate with the European Commission. It also sees merit in supporting the ongoing development of the Bern Convention's work to develop a European regional strategy on this issue. But for much of this to be effective, it is important to ensure the necessary framework for policy implementation is in place, so that we can address the issues associated with non-native species as systematically as possible. Although it is not reasonably practicable to implement all desirable actions at once, the establishment of a coherent overall strategy will assist in prioritisation of key actions. But this also needs to take account of the framework of devolution and consideration should be given to ensuring that co-ordinating arrangements or structures are in place which ensures that devolved accountability and the interests of different administrations are recognised and maintained.
5.3 The Scottish Executive believes that such solutions must be proportionate and does not support the creation of a new Agency, on either a GB or Scottish basis. In forming this view, the Executive recognises that there are already legal and regulatory measures and systems in place but sees scope for improving existing/creating new liaison mechanisms which will more co-ordinate more effectively the issues to be addressed and the actions required.
5.4 Although this issue was not specifically addressed in last August's Consultation Paper on legal aspects of this review, a number of respondents expressed the view that in Scotland, there was a greater role for Scottish Natural Heritage to play in the area of non-native species. Others also supported the need for this issue to be considered at a GB level and recommended that the Joint Nature Conservation Committee is well placed to advise the various Government Administrations on this issue given that it already has GB wide responsibilities on a number of nature conservation matters.
5.5 Your views are sought.
Is there a role for a Scottish and/or a GB body to co-ordinate this issue?
If yes, what might its role be?
How would it best link/add to the work and responsibilities of existing agencies, either at a GB or Scottish level?
Where do you believe improvements could be made in the current structures and procedures which affect non-native species issues in Scotland?
How might such improvements be introduced?
Key Recommendation 2 - Develop comprehensive risk assessment procedures to assess the risks posed by non-native species and identifying and prioritising areas for other prevention action.
5.6 Measures aimed at preventing introductions of invasive non-native species are already in place, principally through the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, although there are other regulatory regimes such as those dealing with plant health and the import of live fish. Other measures are being prepared at an international level such as those by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to address concerns over the introduction of harmful aquatic organisms to new environments, particularly via ships' ballast water, which remains a significant threat to the world's coasts and oceans.
5.7 Although the above simply illustrate some examples to prevent the introduction of non-native species, coupled with existing risk assessment measures for licensing the release of non-native species, the Review recommended the need to further develop and improve comprehensive risk assessment measures to assess the risks posed by non-native species. This was viewed as a priority point for action, with a possible starting point being further research work to standardise a system that would allow species to be more routinely assessed.
5.8 Your views are sought.
Comments are invited on the appropriate research on risks.
Should a risk assessment procedure for all non-native species to be able to highlight generic pathways of introducing invasive non-native species in addition to those pathways associated with particular invasive non-native species?
How might a "list" of high risk species be identified for priority action?
How would such a "list" be used, and by whom?
Key Recommendation 3 - Develop codes of conduct to help prevent introductions for all relevant sectors in a participative fashion involving all relevant stakeholders.
5. 9 The Scottish Executive supports the importance of measures to prevent further unwanted introductions of non-native species and considers the development of codes of practice as a positive approach. This is demonstrated by the inclusion in the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Bill of specific legal measures to improve the ability of Scottish Ministers to respond effectively to new threats by non-native species. This seeks to provide a discretionary power to issue or approve guidance in relation to such species and allowing Ministers to update and amend Schedule 9 of the 1981 Act, which lists species already established and those which are prohibited from further release.
5.10 The purpose of such codes is to prevent further introductions while also raising awareness through trade and public interest alike. But the participation of key stakeholders is fundamental to successful introduction and effective implementation of such codes. The Scottish Executive supports the findings of the Review that the horticultural industry is one trade interest that can serve as an introductory pathway for non-native and may serve as a useful study for a pilot code of practice, with the aim of encouraging best practice and avoiding unwanted introductions.
5.11 Your views are sought.
Do you consider the horticultural industry in Scotland to be appropriate to test a pilot code of practice?
Which other sectors would benefit from a code of conduct?
Who should be responsible for the development of such codes?
How best can the codes of practice be measured for effectiveness?
Key Recommendation 4 - Develop a targeted education and awareness strategy involving all relevant sectors.
5.12 The review recognised that there would be immense value in creating a targeted education and awareness programme on non-native species issues. This offered the potential to engage relevant interests in the threat such species posed and gaining the support from those who had a general interest in the issue, or even more importantly, to those who were in a position to prevent the introduction or spread of such threats.
5.13 The Executive supports the development of a publicity strategy highlighting the key messages of the threat which invasive non-native species pose. An "awareness culture" needs to be created, probably from primary schools upwards, to highlight this issue. Efforts will also be required to ensure that information on the available sources of information and advice on how to tackle any potential threat is made more widely available, some of which will be general in their application, others that will be of a technical nature.
5.14 Many areas of work concerning biodiversity have successful strategies for raising awareness amongst the public. For example, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) developed a targeted education and awareness campaign on wildlife souvenirs which has had some very positive impacts so it is known that such strategies can make that necessary difference. But how can similar successes be achieved in the area of non-native species?
5.15. Your views are sought.
What would contribute to a successful strategy on non-native issues?
Which key concepts would help the public understand the issues relating to invasive non-native species?
What do you consider to be the most effective and accessible medium for a general information campaign?
How can messages about non-native species be best built into existing campaigns?
(NOTE: CONSULTATION ON KEY RECOMMENDATION 5 WAS UNDERTAKEN IN AUGUST 2003)
Key Recommendation 6 - Establish adequate monitoring and surveillance arrangements for non-native species in Great Britain.
5.16 The Review highlighted the need for necessary improvements to wildlife monitoring and surveillance arrangements, since there are weaknesses in our knowledge of the numbers and distribution of non-native species. While significant effort is expended in Scotland, and elsehere in Great Britain, on various aspects of wildlife monitoring, there is limited current work undertaken in Scotland on the extent of non-native species. It is possible that some existing monitoring schemes could be extended or adapted to collect this information but little thought has been given as to how this might be carried out or how the collected information would be disseminated and subsequently used
5.17 It is recognised that opinion differs on the cut-off date when a species can be considered native or non-native. The classification of status of all British macro-organisms could provide a list of established invasive non-native species and consideration needs to be given as to the need for such research to classify the status of all macro-organisms in Great Britain to establish criteria for determining whether a species is an invasive non-native. An alternative might be for Government bodies to use scientific advice currently available to reach a pragmatic decision about the definition of invasive non-native species.
5.18 Yourviews are sought.
Should any one organisation have overall responsibility for ensuring adequate monitoring and surveillance arrangements are in place.
If "yes", who might that body be?
Should it be an existing organisation or is there a role for a group of experts or should this be co-ordinated through an overarching forum
How can we prioritise which taxa etc should be monitored?
Key Recommendation 7 - Policies should be established with respect to management and control of invasive non-native species currently present or newly arrived in the wild, and operational capacity be developed to implement these policies.
5.19 It is the responsibility of Government and their Agencies to develop and implement policies to control or eradicate invasive non-native species, irrespective of whether the threat is newly arrived or discovered or whether it has been long established. But what is not effectively in place is a structured approach to assess the impact and management of individual species.
5.20 It should not be assumed that control or eradication measures are the immediate answer. There needs to be an initial assessment of the impact, if any, pose by that species and if such a threat is identified, whether the threat can be contained or managed, and if not, whether eradication is the only alternative.
5.21 The Executive believes that such assessments are possible within existing key organisations but is seeking ideas on how best to use effectively those existing control mechanisms while ensuring there are no sectoral gaps.
5.22 Your views are sought.
Do you support the view that control measures and eradication programmes have a role in a wider strategy for dealing with invasive non-native species?
What issues should be taken into account in developing further control programmes?
How should the action of key agencies be prioritised? Who should determine that?
What might be the most effective system for dealing with the release of rehabilitated non-native species?
Key Recommendation 8 - Stakeholders should be fully consulted and engaged in development of invasive non-native species policies and action through a mechanism such as a consultative forum.
5.23 It is recognised that the successful development and implementation of non-native species policies will be dependent on engaging and involving parties from all levels within different sectors. Those who need to be involved for this to have any beneficial effect include conservationists, those engaged in the trade in wildlife, agricultural and horticultural trades, scientists, animal welfare bodies together with appropriate Government and enforcement bodies. A key component behind the success of the Non-Native Species Review was the broad representation it included, followed in February 2003 of a UK wide Consultative Forum in Bristol.
5.24 This continued engagement is considered to be an effective way of ensuring that stakeholders contribute fully to developing policies and offering a broader perspective on the issues being addressed and some of the solutions being considered. This is particularly important if educational strategies, codes of practice and greater public awareness measures mentioned earlier are to be effective, as well as ensuring that non-native policy is regularly reviewed and remains appropriate and relevant to all of the different sectors involved.
5.25 Your views are sought.
How best could stakeholders in Scotland be involved in contributing to policy development?
What issues might a Forum address?
Who should be members?
How could such a Forum be best organised to take account of different issues, and link with existing Forums?
Should such a Forum be time-limited?
Is there merit on a Forum being established to consider exclusively Scottish interests?
6. Review of Schedule 9 Species
6.1 The Scottish Executive has already consulted on the legislative aspects of the Review of Non-native Species Policy and brought forward amendments via the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Bill which will allow Scottish Ministers to better address the threats posed by non-native species. However, during Stage 2 of the legislative passage of the Bill, a proposal was brought forward by Mark Ruskell MSP to expand the list of plants listed in Schedule 9 Part II of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. Scottish Ministers already have the power to amend the Schedules of the 1981 Act and therefore the Deputy Minister for the Environment and Rural Development undertook to consult upon the addition of the following species to Schedule 9, Part II.
Warm Temperate and Tropical Water Plants
Cool Temperate Water Plants
Stonecrop, Australian swamp
6.2 Your views are sought.
Is there significant opposition to any addition of these species to Schedule 9 of the 1981 Act?
Are there other species which should be added to Schedule 9 of the 1981 Act?
Code of Conduct: a formalised code of best practice to address (in the context of the working group report) existing or potential problems from the introduction of non-native species.
CBD: Convention on Biological Diversity
Defra: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
IMO: International Maritime Organization
Invasive non-native species: means a non-native species whose introduction and/or spread threatens biological diversity. This is interpreted broadly to include threats to the entire ecosystem including human interests (e.g. including threats to public health and financial damage).
JNCC: The Joint Nature Conservation Committee
Macro-organism: Larger species, collectively, which can be observed without the aid of a microscope.
Native species: A species or race which occurs naturally in an area, in this case Great Britain. Often this is qualified by the addition of a cut-off date (e.g. since 1600).
Non-native species: refers to a species or subspecies, introduced (i.e. by human action) outside its natural past or present distribution; includes any part, gametes, seeds, eggs, or propagules of such species that might survive and subsequently reproduce.
Pathway: the route by which a species may be introduced.
Taxa: Any named organism.
31 March 2004