Time to act on invasive species threat

Caroline Bedell

Caroline Bedell

Executive Director of Conservation Caroline Bedell joined BASC as executive director of conservation in October. She has more than 25 years’ experience of the rural economy and environment. With a degree in rural land management, she has also qualified as a rural practice chartered surveyor.

An Environmental Audit Committee report has called for a ‘citizens’ army’ to tackle the growing threat from invasive species, estimated to cost Britain’s economy £1.8 billion a year. 

The Committee made up of cross-party MPs has published their report on the impact of invasive non-native species (INNS) following an inquiry that investigated the Government’s progress since the previous Committee’s report back in 2014.

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An invasive species is “any non-native animal or plant that has the ability to spread, causing damage to the environment, our economy, human health and the way we live”. Well known INNS covered in the report include the grey squirrel, muntjac, Japanese knotweed and ruddy duck. However, the report also focuses on several increasing threats from the likes of the Asian hornet and oak processionary moth, as well as the threats to our Overseas Territories.

As an organisation whose members are on the front line for controlling and eradicating many invasive species BASC welcomes the Committee’s report and recommendations made to the Government.

The Committee reported that the UK is at threat from between 36 and 48 new INNS as a result of climate change. They also stated that the current levels of funding for dealing with invasive species are unsatisfactory in relation to the task.

INNS is one of the UK’s top five threats to the natural environment and this report pulls no punches with its recommendations to the Government. Understanding that an early alert system is the most effective and cost-efficient method for reducing the risk the Committee’s report made the following recommendations:

  • Train a ‘biosecurity citizens’ army’ of 1.3 million volunteers to identify and respond to outbreaks of invasive species.
  • Establish a dedicated border force to improve biosecurity
  • Ban imports of problem species before they present a risk to the UK
  • Set up a rapid response emergency fund
  • Increase funding to deal specifically with INNS

As the UK’s largest shooting organisation, BASC is uniquely placed to offer our assistance to the government to accomplish the recommendations. For example, this autumn our Asian hornet awareness campaign was well received. In addition, our 156,000-strong membership will certainly be interested in playing a part in the volunteer and education network.

As well as dealing with new threats, emphasis needs to remain on controlling existing invasive species. We therefore welcome specifically the Committee’s recommendation that the management of invasive species should feature as one of the public benefits in the Government’s new environmental land management scheme. Understanding that there is a public good for the work BASC members and the wider community undertake, dealing with for example grey squirrels and muntjac, is necessary for it to be continued.

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