Flora and Fauna: Invasive Species

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 22nd September 2020.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 2:45 pm, 22nd September 2020

My Department is aware of the negative impact that invasive alien species (IAS) can cause to the local environment, with an invasive alien species strategy launched by the then DOE in 2013 detailing actions such as targeted eradication, awareness raising, research and development. The ongoing strategy has brought together many different stakeholders, including local councils, NGOs and other Departments and agencies such as the Department for Infrastructure, Forest Service, the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and the Loughs Agency to work towards dealing with the threat of IAS.

The Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order (Northern Ireland) 2019 came into force in December 2019, giving the Department more effective enforcement powers to take action against 66 species of European Union concern, including 11 widely spread species. The underlying EU regulation not only makes it an offence to permit the spread or release of any of those species but makes it illegal to sell, keep, import, breed or cultivate any of the 66 — 30 animal and 36 plant species — with a special emphasis on the 11 widely spread species. There is now an expectation, as part of a national obligation, on landowners to manage and remove those 11 species from their land. The Department has commenced working proactively with landowners in relation to the 11 widely spread species, to advise them of their responsibilities and to secure management measures from those landowners on how they plan to manage and remove the species from their land. My officials are currently following up on over 60 of those queries with a variety of landowners, including farmers, business owners, councils and other Departments and agencies.

My Department has also produced multi-agency plans for high-risk species that have not yet arrived in Northern Ireland, such as the Asian hornet, along with pathway action plans with a biosecurity focus to endeavour to close down potential routes for IAS to arrive in Northern Ireland. The Invasive Species Ireland website, managed by departmental officials, provides full guidance on confirming ID, management techniques and legislation, and the associated social media streams provide up-to-date news and information. My Department continues to encourage and fund, via the environment fund and environmental farming schemes, many community groups, non-governmental organisations, farmers and landowners to carry out management and removal of invasive species from their land, prioritising designated and high-value biodiversity sites.