The Western Mail reports that experts have called for greater emphasis on bio-security, particularly around ports, harbours and marinas, so as to tackle invasive non-native species that cost Wales more than £70m a year.
They add that the National Assembly’s Environment and Sustainability Committee, sitting at the National Botanic Gardens in Carmarthenshire, was told current legislation fails to address the need to report, control and eradicate the threat of invasive species and better enforcement needs to be developed. Non-native species in Wales cost an estimated £71m a year, with the number of alien species in Europe increasing by 76% in the last 30 years:
The committee, which heard evidence from local authorities, national parks, plus wildlife and farming representatives, was told a Wales-wide strategy was essential to successfully deal with increasingly problematic invasive plant and animal life. It heard that stricter protocols are needed to ensure hulls are scraped and waste disposed of correctly.
Jane Hodges, ecologist at Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, said the marine environment creates an even greater challenge in locating any new invasive species.
She said: “Knowing and understanding where these species are is a great challenge, along with what they might be threatening – what assets both economic and in terms of bio-diversity are at risk.
“In the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park area, we are aware of at least 35 different invasive non native species (INNS). Milford Haven is a hotspot in UK terms. It is an international port and therein lies a lot of the problems and the history of challenges to the marine environment.
“For most of us the problems are out of sight on the seabed, and without very thorough surveillance we will not necessarily know about changes until it is too late.”
One example, she said, was the American Slipper Limpet which is now “beyond any measure of control”.
“This has been around for some time now and has smothered much of the sea bed,” she said.
“This particular species is known to be able to impact not just on the biodiversity of the sea bed and our native species, but also on shell fishing interests. It can smother oyster beds.
“Some of these species do have the capacity to seriously affect the local conservation status of some of our features of European importance and can contribute to some unfavourable conservation status in some instances. It can also affect commercial fisheries.”
She pointed to successful clearance of an invasive creature at Anglesey known as the carpet sea squirt from a harbour which was smothering native marine life. The species, which comes from Japan and is established in parts of Ireland, is believed to have arrived on visiting leisure craft.
But the meeting also heard about the plight faced by local authorities and landowners struggling to contain or eradicate plant species such as Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and giant hogweed.
Neville Rookes, environment policy Officer for the Welsh Local Government Association, said there needed to be a Wales-wide approach to tackling Japanese Knotweed.
He said: “Although it has spread across Wales, is recognised and widely documented by a variety of organisations, the captured data is far from uniform. There are control and treatment responses to sighting but there is a lack of consistency and no comprehensive all-Wales approach to the monitoring and recording.”