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DEFRA unveils plan to tackle non-native species

Unveiling the strategy at the London Wetland Centre, DEFRA minister, Jeff Rooker, said: “The introduction of species over thousands of years has shaped British wildlife and the countryside that we love. But non-native species that are invasive can have a serious impact on native wildlife and are estimated to cost the British economy at least £2billion a year. And with climate change, the threat will become greater. For the first time, we now have a proper plan to tackle this.”

Key measures in the strategy include educating people about the risks from invasive non-native species and developing a web-based directory that will show the density and location of non-native species across the country. This will help experts identify potential problems as quickly as possible.

The new strategy will co-ordinate existing programmes and activities relating to established non-native species, and provide a clear definition of the role of those involved in tackling this issue, including local and central government ministers, land managers, academic researchers, conservationists and trade organisations.

Dr Jonathan Reynolds has been leading the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s research into mink control. He told that invasive non-native species present huge problems in the UK: “Knowing even where to start is mind-boggling. So joined-up strategy from the government on this issue will be very welcome. It seems churlish to point it out, but what the government is not announcing is a large package of financial support for preventative measures or eradication campaigns. Therefore in designing a UK strategy, the challenges it faces includes harnessing resources — often in the volunteer sector — and prioritising issues. In practical terms, if you are giving time to the control of Japanese knotweed or American mink, your efforts could be better integrated with others, but your time will still be essential.”

Though related, this strategy differs from last year’s public consultation, which closed on 31 January and looked at the possibility of adding species such as the helmeted guineafowl to Schedule 9 of the 1981 Wildlife & Countryside Act making it illegal to release them into the wild.

DEFRA has assured Shooting Times that the conclusion of the consultation will be revealed in the next few months.

To view DEFRA’s new strategy, visit the Non-native species strategy pages