Alien numbers increasing
As English lawmakers consider following Scotland’s lead in allowing the culling of invasive species, how has the new directive taken hold north of the border since its introduction last year?
The Wildlife and Natural Environment Scotland (WANE) Act 2011 was arguably one of the most substantial pieces of legislation affecting wildlife and land management passed in recent years. It seeks to modernise game laws, introduce new wildlife offences and create a new regime for regulating invasive and non-native species.
Invasive species are thought to inflict more than 1.12 trillion Euros in damage per annum across the world; often in hidden costs such as the development of new substances to control or eradicate the invasive species. They can also have a significant impact on local animal populations, for example grey squirrels reducing native red squirrel numbers and American crayfish ousting our native white clawed crayfish.
The new regulations will allow species to be added to an ‘emergency list’ if an invasive species is discovered and takes hold quickly. They require people to notify authorities if they discover or become aware of an invasive species, and the Act includes the provision of species control orders to require people to tackle invasive species on their land and on vessels at sea.
Local expert, Dr Elizabeth Cook, comments “As global mobility has increased, we’ve been trading more internationally and much of that trade travels by sea. It’s very easy for invasive species to take hold; particularly in the marine environment, by hitching a ride on the hulls of ships. In addition, since a chemical called TBT was banned in paint, hulls are now easier for species to hitch a ride on.”
Dr Cook is a biologist at SAMS (the Scottish Association for Marine Science) and has been involved in national research on invasive species for the NERC Oceans 2025 project and the Marine Aliens programme. She adds “the Act is a major step forward in helping us tackle this growing problem. The Code of Practice issued in July assists people in understanding their role in the process, but we need to acknowledge that the only way people can notify Government of a particular invasive species is to be able to accurately identify them. This is something we’re trying to do at SAMS and have been working with the Firth of Clyde Forum and Scottish Natural Heritage to help spread the word.”
Dr Cook presented two half-day workshops covering Marine Invasive Species for the Firth of Clyde Forum last week, with almost 40 people attending from a variety of industries. It’s planned that SAMS will run more of these workshops and Dr Cook is also hosting a two day course in the subject for people wanting more in-depth identification knowledge. With a recent report estimating that 20% of the world’ invertebrates are now endangered, for reasons ranging from pollution and over-harvesting to the effect of invasive species, perhaps it’s time England did follow suit with legislation to make a difference?
For further information on Dr Cook’s work, or her courses on marine invasive species identification, please visit www.sams.ac.uk/education/short-courses/marine-invasive-species, or email SAMSCourses@sams.ac.uk.