The increasing mobility of the human race has many benefits but one of the major negatives is the associated spread of non-native species. Mankind has always carried favoured or useful species with them on their travels but the resulting problems caused by the introduction of invasive non-native species are now all too apparent. Whether it be rabbits in Australia or American Signal Crayfish in Europe the implications for native wildlife and the economy can be serious. Few introductions of non-natives are carried out with malice afore-thought, most escapes into the wild are unintentional, but the consequences are often irreversible.
The impacts of non-natives on Speyside are all too evident with the mass invasion of the lower river with non-native plants such as Giant Hogweed and Japanese knotweed amongst others. Signal crayfish haven’t turned up in our catchment yet but they have been introduced into neighbouring catchments. It is known however that non-native fish have been introduced in several locations within the Spey catchment. The Grantown ponds non-native fish populations were surveyed by the Spey Foundation several years ago but other examples of stillwaters, ponds etc containing non-native fish are coming to light. Most of the fish species involved present little threat as they are unlikely to be able to breed in our northern climate but others are capable of establishing themselves in the River Spey.
To help try and control the spread on non-native species new legislation has just come into force to help control the spread of non-native animals (including fish) and plants.
The new legislation makes it an offence to:
- Release an animal, or allow it to escape, outwith its native range
- Plant a plant in the wild outwith its native range
- Intentionally or otherwise plant a plant in the wild or cause an animal to be outwith its native range
The Scottish Government press release can be seen here and the Code of Practice on non-native species can be downloaded here. This legislation clearly puts a much greater emphasis on the implications for those found to be responsible for non-native introductions and we can only hope that it helps to slow the spread.