The Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA) joined fellow trade associations and other experts on 11 June during a special outreach hearing held in Cambridge by the Environmental Audit Committee as part of its inquiry into the impacts of invasive species and their management.
OATA’s assistant chief executive Dr Tracey King spoke on behalf of the ornamental aquatic industry, explaining how the trade saw its role and responsibilities with regard to the movement of a range of non-native species, from fish to plants, across the globe and into the UK.
During two evidence gathering panels the committee of cross-party MPs questioned researchers from the Biosecurity Research Initiative at St Catharine’s, where the event was held, as well as practitioners, NGOs, border authorities and trade associations. In a departure from usual parliamentary procedure the hearing was held away from Westminster and was opened to the public to attend.
During her questioning by MPs, King’s main points included explaining the main pathways for ornamental species to enter the UK, outlining the checks and balances that legal trade must go through and highlighting the lack of scrutiny of online/e-commerce sales. She also pointed out the lack of a central portal for people to find out about banned species.
She raised examples of best practice in New Zealand and Holland which the committee might be interested in and highlighted the lack of direct engagement with the industry when it came to horizon scanning by the government for issues.
King said: “Taking part in these kinds of inquiries, by putting in written submissions and attending hearings like this one, are really important because we hope that MPs want a fully rounded picture of what is happening with non-native species and the work our industry is doing to highlight the ‘no release’ and be plant wise messages to customers.”
The committee will use the sessions to inform a major report with recommendations to government, due to be published this autumn.