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Banned water plants listed for sale on Ebay and Amazon

Defra has launched Invasive Species Week, which runs till 29 March and is encouraging 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 online retail giant Amazon.

Available on Ebay are 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.

Biosecurity minister Lord Gardiner said: "It should be stopped and I will looking into that. Having been on the River Colne [in west London launching Invasive Species Week on 26 March], 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 reponsible."

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

Amazon sellers have elodea, Broadleaf watermilfoil, American skunk cabbage and water hyacinth listed.

Ebay said it would look into listings of concern. Amazon has also been contacted for comment.

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 suggest 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. Please can you make clear in your piece that a listing is not the same as a sale.  

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 (http://pages.ebay.co.uk/help/policies/wildlife.html), 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. We've reported them to the government regulator APHA who have continually failed to do anything about it."

A Defra consultation on Invasive Alien Species at https://consult.defra.gov.uk/natural-environment-policy/invasive-non-native-species-enforcement/ closes on 3 April and proposes tighter penalties. 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.

Whitmee said the bans came from the EU and some are "lazy" because they should be regionally-applied only and not include the UK, as plants such as water hyacinth cannot survive UK winters. OATA has argued for civil rather tha  criminal penalties.

UK pond plant banned list:

  • 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)

In 2016, four aquatic plants water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), cabomba (Cabomba caroliniana), curly waterweed (Lagarosiphon major often inaccurately called Elodea crispa) and American skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) were banned. 

Five aquatic plants were already banned from sale in the UK from April 2014: Water fern, Parrot's feather, Floating pennywort, Water primrose and New Zealand pigmyweed/Australian swamp stonecrop. The others have been banned susequrntly.

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.

Comment by Howard Drury - Brilliant article as usual from Matthew Appleby of Horticulture Week and a magazine any serious gardener should subscribe to (www.hortweek.com/subscribe ) but DEFRA should have made a big fuss about this to home gardeners. We also must remember that when I was training almost 50 years ago these were on the must plant list so we have to re-educate and target our advice to those most likely to cause the problem in the first place - the home gardener! (Thanks to Horticulture Week and please do subscribe!)

Parent Category: News Channels
Category: News Stories 2018
Last Updated: 27 March 2018
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