Invasive plants are a growing concern

Defra’s recently launched Invasive Species Week, was designed to encourage river users to think about non-native species and aquatic plants such as floating pennywort. But banned invasive plants are still being listed on online marketplace Ebay and have also been found online at retail giant Amazon. Other invasive plants are available on Ebay include the banned water fern, skunk cabbage and curly waterweed. More banned pond invasives such as Australian stonecrop and parrot’s feather are available from Ebay to import into the UK from EU-based sellers.

Safeguarding the environment

Biosecurity minister Lord Gardiner said: “It should be stopped and I will looking into that. Having been on the River Colne and seen how destructive this invasive plant [floating pennywort] is, it is imperative people act responsibly. One of the main sources if from people’s own ponds into water courses. Everyone needs to be responsible.”

Gardiner said his message that “invasive species pose a real threat to our country’s native plants and animals and cost the economy at least £1.8 billion a year.

“The Check, Clean, Dry campaign is playing a key role in raising awareness of these threats – helping to prevent new arrivals and stopping the spread of invasive species already here. It is great to see the whole community of river users supporting this programme to protect the future of our precious native species.”

UK Ebay sellers had listed curly waterweed from £1.99 and skunk cabbage from £2.99. German, Polish and Spanish sellers have other banned plants available.

Amazon sellers had listed elodea, broadleaf watermilfoil, American skunk cabbage and water hyacinth listed. Amazon said it subsequently had them taken down from sale following a story in Horticulture Week.

Ebay said it would look into listings of concern. Amazon removed some products after being notified they were listed: “All Marketplace sellers must follow our selling guidelines and those who don’t will be subject to action including potential removal of their account. The products in question are no longer available.”

Ebay’s policy states: “Not allowed: Importing, transporting or keeping plants, plant pests and other material which may harm the environment that are prohibited by law.” It suggests looking at APHA’s website for details. Banned items will be removed from the online marketplace and Ebay is constantly scanning the platform to ensure listings are in line with its rules, so the process of removal may already be underway. 

An Ebay spokesperson said: “We understand the importance of protecting native and endangered species, and our members are obliged to follow laws, government regulations, and international treaties on animals and wildlife.

“There is more detail on our animals and wildlife policy, but if a listing doesn’t follow our guidelines, it may be removed, and the buying and selling privileges of the person who listed it could be restricted.”

The Ornamental Aquatics Trade Association said it is aware of the sale of banned plants online.

OATA chief executive Dominic Whitmee said: “This is something we’ve seen quite a lot of ourselves. We report it to the authorities because we tell our members not to sell these species yet we do see many Ebay and other adverts selling them.”

The EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation came into force in 2015. It applies restrictions on 49 invasive non-native species of most concern in Europe including a ban on keeping and sale. This consultation sets out proposals for enforcing those restrictions through the use of civil and criminal penalties. Penalties are up to five years imprisonment.

The UK pond plant banned list includes:
• Water Fern (Azolla filiculoides)
• Parrot’s Feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum)
• Floating Pennywort (Hydrocotyle ranunculoides)
• Australian swamp stone crop (New Zealand Pygmyweed) (Crassula helmsii)
• Water Primrose (Ludwigia grandiflora)
• Floating primrose willow (Ludwigia peploides)
• Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)
• Cabomba (Cabomba caroliniana)
• Curly waterweed (Lagarosiphon major often inaccurately called Elodea crispa)
• American skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus)
• Alligator weed (Alternanthera philoxeroides)
• Nuttall’s waterweed (Elodea nuttallii)
• Giant Rhubarb (Gunnera tinctoria)
• Broadleaf watermilfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum)

As well as following the Check, Clean, Dry advice, people can help by reporting sightings of invasive plants through the Defra PlantTracker app.

Lord Gardiner’s visit comes as part of a wider push by government to promote Invasive Species Week. The week is an annual awareness-raising campaign organised by the GB Non-Native Species Secretariat (NNSS) and Defra to get members of the public thinking about simple steps they can take to stop the spread of invasive species which threaten Britain’s plants and animals.

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