Environment Audit CommitteeSupplementary written evidence submitted by Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association

1. Further to our evidence submitted by a letter dated 24 February we would like to make comments regarding the verbal evidence provided by the Angling Trust and the Environment Agency. Among other issues a recurrent theme are references made to retail outlets or garden centres being a part of the invasives problem with no reference made to the already very active role they are playing in the solution by wide spread public awareness raising campaigns they are participating in nor of the possible greater role of other actors in the problem.

Angling Trust

2. In his answer to Q65 Mark Lloyd of Anglers Trust made a number of sweeping statements. We have addressed the issue of releasing fish or plants purchased for aquaria and ponds in our original evidence and I will not rehearse these here. Suffice to say OATA and its members are at the forefront of raising public awareness of the issue of invasive species. I would however comment further on two aspects of his answer:

3. “The same with fish-there are top mouth gudgeon being sold. If someone doesn’t want one and flushes it down the toilet-they can even survive that-or releases them into a lake or anything else, they can cost millions to remove.”

Top mouth gudgeon

4. While noting the word “freely” has been removed from the uncorrected evidence the comments regarding the retail sale of this species tends to leave one with impression that sales remain regular to the extent they may constitute an issue. We believe this is incorrect.

5. The controls on retail sales of species controlled by the Import of Live Fish Act, of which top mouth gudgeon is one, are enforced by the Fish Health Inspectorate of CEFAS based at Weymouth. A Senior Inspector said of the idea that this species is being offered for retail sale:

6. “Among the many species that we have either regulated imports or banned keeping in the last 17 years, only once have we come across topmouth gudgeon, and I had those killed within the hour, as it was me who found them. We have not had any notifications from the public or trade so I suspect there are very few, if any, out there.”1

7. This answer also adds weight to my initial evidence concerning the generally firm, fair and robust way in which the CEFAS Fish Health Inspectors undertake their role which enhances their reputation within my sector of the fish keeping industry.

8. It is perhaps disappointing, particularly given his association with Fish Legal, that the purported illegal sale of this species, though important enough to bring to your attention, was seemingly on no occasion deemed important enough at the time for Mr. Lloyd to report the matter to the enforcement agency CEFAS. I am confident they would then have taken effective dissuasive action. As we would not support deliberate illegal sales had he chosen to report the instances as claimed to CEFAS Mr. Lloyd would have had our support.

The “flushing” issue

9. Flushing fish down the toilet would be an act of cruelty. While being the subject of the popular Pixar film cartoon “Finding Nemo” I can find very little foundation in the real life for a happy ending for any fish flushed in the UK. When asked for his opinion regarding the likelihood of fish surviving such an experience Nigel Hewlett, Fisheries Technical Services Manager of EA commented “I am of the opinion that a fish, such as a goldfish, surviving flushing down a toilet and transport through the foul sewer is unlikely. There is likely to be a significant level of damage caused by the flushing and transport of the fish and the conditions within the foul sewer are unlikely to allow a fish to survive for any length of time.”

10. He went on to say “In flood conditions from surface water run off, the bypassing of normal sewage flow routes may be regarded as a route by which fish could enter open water courses. However, storm sewage overflows are deoxygenated and are frequently responsible for losses of fish within the receiving water body. Due to this and the physical impacts on a fish, it is highly unlikely that flood conditions increase risk of survival.”2

11. A further minor issue is that a species closely resembling a fungus not a virus from signal crayfish is wiping out native species (Question 84). I believe signals were promoted relatively recently (the 1980’s) as an agricultural diversity option by “Food for Britain”.

Environment Agency

12. Fish stocked for angling are intentionally introduced into areas regarded by the public, but not always by law, as wild. On the other hand ornamental fish sold through pet shops and garden centres are intended to live their whole lives in garden ponds or aquariums-the vast majority do so. It is perhaps worth recalling that Zander mentioned in the EA evidence was apparently introduced into a fenland drain by a River Authority in the 1960’s.

13. In response to Question 232 Adrian Taylor said “There are many species of fish, for example, that can be brought in legally and kept and sold through garden centres, often under licence. These are not licensed by the Environment Agency, but the Fish Health Inspectorate licenses the keeping of non-natives in aquarium retail centres and also the import of fish. There is no doubt that some of these species, such as sturgeon, then do find their way into fisheries and into the wild, often because they get too big for the aquariums that they are sold for. That is a problem.”

14. This tends to reprise the EA response given to the consultation on ILFA in 2010:

“Sturgeon of various species are also being illegally stocked in increasing numbers in fisheries, increasing the risk of disease being spread. Occasional angler catches of sturgeon from rivers have been reported. We believe that the general licence for sturgeon species, which enables suppliers to sell without reference to the purchaser’s ILFA licence, contributes to this illegal activity. We recommend that this general licence for sturgeon should be withdrawn and are disappointed that this is not being done within the amendments to the Order.”3

15. The Government’s response at that time while noting the possibility of releases agreed with the position that sturgeon should remain on general licence. It went on to say “However, in the short term, the government and its agencies are committed to taking strong action on illegal introductions of into fisheries and are actively seeking their removal.” And further said “the importance of applying the legislation evenly across the sectors is recognised.”4 The EA are the agency charged by DEFRA to implement ILFA in fisheries.

16. In response to Q236 he further commented “As far as fish are concerned, non-native fish can only be kept in still waters. We don’t allow them in rivers anyway. We wouldn’t allow them to be stocked. They can only be kept under licence in still waters. So I think there is strong regulation there.”

17. In my original Memorandum I stated “It appears there is instant action in my sector by the Fish Health Inspectorate of CEFAS but more a ‘we might or might not get round to doing anything’ attitude taken by the EA about the same species seemingly illegally present in fisheries.” Given the EA’s assertion of “strong” regulation I believe I should elaborate on the evidence for my comment.

18. Given the use of the word “strong” it is interesting to note that the first prosecution under ILFA was only undertaken in May 2011, 13 years after the introduction of relevant Order.5 The EA removed the sturgeon involved in this case and returned them to owner of the fishery in which they were stocked illegally to put in an ornamental pond. The fish removed as evidenced by the photograph at Annex II were not of a size that came from a retail pet shop or are usually found in garden ponds. Whether or not this pond is a garden pond as envisaged by the general license may be open to further consideration. If, as occurs occasionally, illegally held ILFA species are found by CEFAS in the ornamental sector they are euthanased very quickly as is evidenced by the comment made by Alasdair Scott recorded above.

19. There remained at the start of April this year 39 Time limited licences and 82 Time limited expired licences for Wels catfish and 15 Time limited and 32 Time limited expired licences for sturgeon in fisheries. Thus there were, 14 years after the relevant orders were introduced, 168 outstanding situations known to the EA where fish had been introduced to fisheries illegally6 but there had been just one prosecution. Persuading fisheries to remove fish may be the best option, and may have been successful on occasion, but the patience of the EA is to be admired in tolerating matters for over a decade. During the mid 2000’s there is a case to be made that fisheries may have been prepared to stock first and apply for licences later as they suspected whatever the outcome of their application no action would be taken against them.

20. Actions have been taken to eradicate the small species the top mouth gudgeon (and much is made of this) which has no angling purpose and so has few friends. As is illustrated above rather less action has been taken against bigger species that are commercially valuable and whose owners may present a rather more difficult obstacle to EA progress. It is also perhaps worth noting that removal of big specimens can be achieved by removing individual fish whereas removal of smaller species requires methods that may, while being effective, be more damaging to environment being saved from harm.

21. While pointing the finger at garden centres and other government bodies the EA may have failed to reveal their part in the current situation while characterising themselves as strong. Whether such characterisation is correct is for others to judge, even if it transpires some actions have been taken more recently. Though two years have passed and some action has been commenced a few sentences of a letter I received in 2010 from the EA seems to better describe the overall position with regard to enforcement since 1998 “I acknowledge that this does excuse apparent inaction for the previous 12 years. We are working to put this right.” and “Due to those challenges local teams have prioritised use of enforcement resource to issues other than ILFA. This situation is regrettable and we would like to have done better.”7 This letter followed an extensive exchange of views by email in which DEFRA officials responsible for policy in this area were fully engaged and so very well aware of the issues raised presumably reported to the Minister responsible for the EA enforcement of ILFA controls.

22 June 2012

1 From: Alasdair Scott (Cefas) <alasdair.scott@cefas.co.uk> To: “Keith Davenport” <keith@ornamentalfish.org> Date: Tuesday, March 27, 2012, 4:41:09 PM Subject: While you are on ILFA matters. Only text relevant to top mouth gudgeon quoted.

2 Email from Nigel Hewlett received April 20 2012

3 http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/static/documents/Research/2186_ILFA_-_Import_of_Live_Fish_Act.pdf Section 3.2

4 Summary and Government Response to the the Consultation on an Amendment to the Order Made under the Import of Live Fish Act 1980 (ilfa. December 2010

5 http://www.defra.gov.uk/aahm/2011/05/06/environment-agency-first-prosecution-under-ilfa/

6 Personal email from CEFAS FHI dated 11 April 2012.

7 Letter dated 13 August 2010 “The application of ILFA Orders in England and Wales” Ref 1810/NRH/RFI from Nigel Hewlett Technical Advisor at the EA.

Prepared 16th October 2012