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England and Wales

EU Regulation (1143/2014) on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species

EU Regulation 1143/2014 (external link) was retained in domestic law under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (external link). It was amended through several statutory instruments, including The Invasive Non-native Species (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, to ensure operability following the UK’s exit from the EU but applies to Great Britain only. Henceforth, we refer to it as the ‘Retained Regulation’.

The Retained Regulation imposes restrictions on a list of species of special concern. These are species whose adverse impact across Great Britain are such that concerted action is required. The Secretary of State has the power to add or remove species from the list of species of special concern with the consent of Welsh and Scottish Ministers.

A core provision of the Retained Regulation is a series of strict restrictions preventing species of special concern from being brought into the territory of Great Britain, kept, bred, transported, placed on the market, used or exchanged, allowed to reproduce, grown or cultivated, or released into the environment. Although there are some limited exceptions to these restrictions.

For more information visit the gov.uk webpages for rules relating to listed animals (external link) and plants (external link).

Permits issued under the Retained Regulation

Permits can be issued under Article 8 of the Retained Regulation to carry out research on, or ex-situ conservation of, species of special concern. Where the use of products derived from species of special concern is unavoidable to advance human health, permits may also include scientific production and subsequent medicinal use.

Permits are issued by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), on behalf of Defra and the Welsh Government.  Read more on how to apply for a permit (external link)

View details of issued permits.

Article 24(1) of the Retained Regulation required that Member States submit a report on implementation by 1 June 2019. Read the UK's report on implementation (external link)

Read the Review of implementation of the retained EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation (EU 1143/2014) in Great Britain 2015-2020 (external link)

The Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order 2019

The Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order 2019 (external link) came into force on 1 December 2019. It contains provisions relating to offences, penalties, enforcement, licensing and permitting in order to meet requirements of the Retained Regulation. 

The Order applies to England and Wales, the offshore marine area and, as regards any provision which applies in relation to controls on imports into and exports from the United Kingdom, and any provision which relates to any such provision, to Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Article 3 contains offences around the importing, keeping, breeding, purchasing, and releasing or allowing to escape into the wild of species of special concern. The Order contains other offences in relation to permits and licences, including making false statements, the misuse of permits or licences, and obstruction and deception. A person guilty of an offence under the Order is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for up to six months or to a fine, or to both; or on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for up to two years or to a fine, or to both.

See guidance on:

The Order amends Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA) to omit those species from Schedule 9 which are also species of special concern. This is to prevent duplication between the similar control measures in the Order and in the WCA. The wording from the s14 offence in the WCA (‘Introduction of new species etc’) was added to the Order in relation to those species of special concern in the Order that were omitted from the WCA. This means that the offence can still apply to those species. 

Similar legislation is in place in Scotland (external link) and Northern Ireland (external link).

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA)

Introduction of species etc 

Section 14(1) of the WCA (external link) makes it an offence to release or allow to escape into the wild any animal which is not ordinarily resident in Great Britain and is not a regular visitor to Great Britain in a wild state, or is listed in Schedule 9 to the Act (note that this also includes some native animals). It is also an offence to plant or otherwise cause to grow in the wild any plant listed in Part II of Schedule 9 (external link) to the Act.

Offences under section 14 carry a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine and/or 6 months imprisonment on summary conviction (i.e. at Magistrates’ Court) and an unlimited fine and/or 2 years imprisonment on indictment (i.e. at Crown Court). 

Guidance on Section 14 of the WCA (external link) gives further information. 

Species control agreements and orders

Section 14(4A) of the WCA (read together with Schedule 9A of the Act) enables an environmental authority to enter into a species control agreement and make species control orders to ensure, in certain circumstances, that landowners take action on invasive non-native species, or permit others to enter the land and carry out those operations, to prevent their establishment or spread.

The Species Control Provisions: Code of Practice for England (external link) sets out how the provisions should be applied by environmental authorities in England.

The Code of Practice for Species Control Provisions in Wales (external link) sets out how the provisions should be applied in Wales.

Sale etc. of certain animals and plants included in Schedule 9

Section 14ZA(1) of the WCA (external link) creates an offence of selling, offering or exposing for sale, or possessing or transporting for the purposes of sale, any animal or plant to which the offence applies.

Under section 14ZA(2) a person is guilty of an offence if they publish or cause to be published any advertisement likely to be understood as conveying that they buy or sell (or intend to) any animal or plant to which the offence applies. These offences apply to any live animal or live plant which is not ordinarily resident in GB and is not a regular visitor to GB in a wild state, or any live non-native animal or plant species listed in Parts I, IA, IB or II of Schedule 9 to the WCA, and are included in an Order made  by the Secretary of State (for England) or Welsh Ministers (for Wales) (see ‘Prohibition on Sale of certain invasive non-native plants, below).

Prohibition on Sale of certain invasive non-native plants

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (prohibition on Sale etc. of Invasive Non-native Plants) (England) Order 2014 (external link) specifies a number of plants prohibited from sale in England by section 14ZA of the WCA (above) due to their significant negative impacts on biodiversity and the economy.

Those species prohibited from sale are (alternative names are given in brackets):

  • Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides, (Fairy Fern)
  • Australian Swamp Stonecrop, Crassula helmsii, (New Zealand Pigmyweed, Tillaea aquatica, Tillaea recurva)
  • Primrose, Water, Ludwigia uruguayensis

Other species were originally included under the 2014 Order but restrictions on sale etc. are now covered by the Retained Regulation. This includes

  • Parrot’s Feather, Myriophyllum aquaticum
  • Pennywort, Floating, Hydrocotyle ranunculoides
  • Primrose, Floating Water, Ludwigia peploides
  • Primrose, Water, Ludwigia grandiflora

Codes of Practice in connection with species which are non-native or included in Schedule 9

Section 14 ZB of the WCA (external link) allows the Secretary of State (for England) and Welsh Ministers (for Wales) to issue or approve codes relating to animals which are not ordinarily resident in and are not regular visitors to Great Britain in a wild state and animals or plants included in Schedule 9 to the WCA (e.g. ). Failure to comply with the codes alone is not an offence but is admissible evidence in any proceedings and must be taken into account by a court in any case in which they appear to the court to be relevant.

View the Codes of Practice.

Power to enter premises

Section 18D(1)(c) of the WCA (external link) includes a provision enabling a wildlife inspector to, at any reasonable time, enter and inspect any premises (which excludes dwellings) for the purpose of ascertaining whether an offence under section 14 is being, or has been, committed on those premises. 

Section 18E (external link) includes a provision whereby a wildlife inspector may, for the purpose of ascertaining whether a section 14 offence is being, or has been, committed in respect of any specimen, require any person who has the specimen in his possession or control to make it available for examination, and may require the taking of a sample from a specimen found during an inspection.

Community protection notices

The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (external link) enables community protection notices to be served by local authorities or the Police against individuals who are acting unreasonably and who persistently or continually act in a way that has a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality. These powers are designed to be flexible and could be used to address specific problems caused by widespread species such as Japanese knotweed.

View further guidance (external link).

The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (external link)

as amended by the Conservation of Habitats and Species (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. These Regulations transpose into domestic law:

- the (EU) Directive on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (‘the Habitats Directive’) (external link). Article 22 of this Directive (92/43/EC). requires Member States to "ensure that the deliberate introduction into the wild of any species which is not native to their territory is regulated so as not to prejudice natural habitats within their natural range or the wild native fauna and flora and, if they consider it necessary, prohibit such introduction."; and

- the (EU) Directive on the conservation of wild birds (‘the Birds Directive’) (external link). Article 11 of this Directive (79/409/EC) states that "Member States shall see that any introduction of species of bird which do not occur naturally in the wild state in the European territory of the member states does not prejudice the local flora and fauna."

Trade of Wildlife and Endangered Species

CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) (external link) is implemented in the UK through the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations (EU WTR). Since 1 January 2021, the EU WTR have become retained EU law in Great Britain (UK WTR). EU WTR continue to apply in Northern Ireland. Currently the EU WTR are Council Regulation 338/97/EC (external link) on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein (the Basic Regulation – implemented in domestic law by the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997 (external link)) and Commission Regulation 865/2006/EC (external link) laying down detailed rules concerning the implementation of Council Regulation 338/97/EC (the Implementing Regulation). The Suspension Regulation 1587/2019/EC (external link) suspend the introduction into the Community of certain species from certain countries due to conservation concerns. Penalties for non-compliance with the WTRs and other enforcement provisions are contained in UK-specific legislation, The Control of Trade in Endangered Species Regulations 2018 (COTES) (external link).  

The Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) (England and Wales) Regulations 2017 (external link)

These Regulations transpose into domestic law the (EU) Water Framework Directive. That Directive establishes a framework for national measures to achieve or maintain a good ecological status for European inland, transitional and coastal waters by 2015 and prevent their further deterioration.

The Marine Strategy Regulations 2010

These Regulations transpose into domestic law the (EU) Marine Strategy Framework Directive (external link) 2008/56/EC (17 June 2008). That Directive requires each Member State to develop a maritime strategy based on the ecosystem approach with the aim of achieving or maintaining 'good environmental status' in the marine environment by 2021.

The Alien and Locally Absent Species in Aquaculture (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 (external link).

These Regulations provide for the implementation and enforcement of Aquaculture Regulation (EC) No 708/2007 concerning use of alien and locally absent species in aquaculture, which stablishes a dedicated framework to assess and minimise the possible impact of alien and locally absent species used in aquaculture on the aquatic environment.

Import of Live Fish (England and Wales) Act 1980 (external link)

This Act gives the relevant Minister the power to make Orders to prohibit or licence the import into, or the keeping or release in any part of England and Wales of live fish, or the live eggs of fish, of a species which is not native to England and Wales and which might harm the habitat of, compete with, displace or prey on any freshwater fish, shellfish or salmon in England and Wales. This Act also allows the courts upon conviction of an offence under this Act to order the forfeiture and destruction of illegally stocked specimens of certain fish or fish egg species.

The Prohibition of Keeping or Release of Live Fish (Specified Species) (England) Order 2014 (external link) and the Prohibition of Keeping or Release of Live Fish (Specified Species) (Wales) Order 2015 (external link) prohibit the unlicensed keeping or release of certain non-native live fish (listed in the Order) in England and Wales, respectively.

The Prohibition of Keeping of Live Fish (Crayfish) Order 1996 (external link) aims to prevent the spread of non-native crayfish by prohibiting the unlicensed keeping of listed (in the Order) non-native crayfish species in England and Wales. An exception applied to the keeping of Signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) in England and Wales when the Order was originally made. This exception has been revoked under the Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order 2019 (see above).

For further information on the current rules regarding Signal crayfish, see: guidance on invasive non-native (alien) animal species: rules in England and Wales (external link).

In addition to Signal crayfish, four further species of crayfish are also species of special concern meaning the restrictions regarding breeding, transport, sale, use, release etc. also apply:

  • Orconectes limosus, Spiny-cheek crayfish
  • Orconectes virilise, Virile crayfish
  • Procambarus clarkia, Red swamp crayfish
  • Procambarus fallax f. virginalis, Marbled crayfish

Find out more about legislation on fish and shellfish disease (external link) and see the Cefas website (external link).

List of plant health legislation

Other England and Wales legislation 

The Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932 (external link)

This Act provides Ministers in England and Wales with the power to prohibit, jointly with the Secretary of State for Scotland,  the importation and keeping of the  Muskrat Ondatra zibethicus. To date, no such Order under the Act has been made.  This power may be extended to other destructive, non-indigenous animals. Under the Act, the appropriate authority (Natural England; NatureScot in Scotland) may licence imports for research or exhibition purposes. As the Muskrat is a species of special concern, the restrictions regarding breeding, transport, sale, use, release etc. under the 2019 Order (see above) apply to it.

The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (external link)

This Act was introduced in response to public concern about the keeping of dangerous animals as pets by private individuals, and the possibility that they might escape into the wild. Licences are required for any animal which appears on a schedule to the Act. These are issued by the relevant local authority, and can only be granted if the authority is satisfied that certain criteria are met, including: that it would not be contrary to the public interest on the grounds of safety, nuisance or otherwise; that the applicant is a suitable person; and that the animal is kept in adequate and secure accommodation. The local authority is entitled to specify where and how an animal is kept.

Environmental Protection Act 1990 (external link)

This Act has very limited provisions for non-native species, but is included here due to the potential classification of soil and other waste containing viable propagules of invasive non-native plant species as controlled waste. This has been applied to Japanese Knotweed Fallopia japonica, with the result that waste containing this species must be disposed of in accordance with the duty of care set out in section 34 of the Act. The Environment Agency has issued guidance on the treatment and disposal of invasive non-native plants (external link).

The Bees Act 1980 (external link)

This Act gives Ministers the power to make Orders to prevent the introduction into Great Britain (or their spread within the country) of pests and diseases affecting bees. An Order made under this Act may include measures such as prohibiting or regulating the importation of bees and combs, bee products, hives, containers and other appliances used in connection with the keeping or transporting of bees and of any other thing which has or may have been exposed to infection with any pest or disease to which an Order applies.

The Zoo Licensing Act 1981 (external link)

This Act requires the inspection and licensing of all zoos (as defined in the Act). Licensing requirements include suitable precautions to be taken against the escape of any captive species.

The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 (external link)

These Regulations promote the welfare of animals involved in the five specified activities, namely selling animals as pets, providing or arranging for the provision of boarding for cats or dogs, hiring out horses, dog breeding and keeping or training animals for exhibition. Local authorities are required by law to issue licences and require registration for specific animal-related establishments and activities, with the aim of maintaining good standards of animal welfare. Licences can be varied, refused, or revoked. The Regulations are accompanied by statutory guidance notes which local authorities must have regard to in enforcing the licensing regime.

The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (Wales) Regulations 2021 (external link)

These Regulations, alongside the statutory guidance, relate to the selling of animals as pets. They replaced Section 1 of the Pet Animals Act 1951 and assist Local Authorities in granting licences subject to compliance with a set of standards. The Regulations enable Local Authorities to inspect premises, allow an appeals process to the courts in case of refusal or onerous conditions, and provide that operating without a licence is an offence. They also set out a number of disqualifications that are relevant to the Local Authority when assessing licence applications (such as a conviction for animal cruelty) and permit a Local Authority to recover the costs for inspection, processing, and enforcement expenditure through a licence fee.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 (external link)

The Animal Welfare Act makes provision about animal welfare. It imposes a duty to ensure that the needs of an animal for which the person is responsible are met to the extent required by good practice. The animals’ needs include:

  • a suitable environment,
  • a suitable diet,
  • to exhibit normal behaviour patterns,
  • to be housed with, or apart from, other animals (if applicable) and
  • to be protected from pain, injury, suffering and disease

Anyone who is cruel to an animal, or does not provide for its welfare needs, may be disqualified from owning/keeping animals/participating in the keeping of animals or from being party to an arrangement under which they are entitled to control or influence the way in which animals are kept, face an unlimited fine, sent to prison or both.

The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (external link)

This Act requires the inspection and licensing of premises where experiments falling within the scope of this Act are being carried out. Premises must conform to high standards, and are inspected regularly by Home Office inspectors. Personal and project licences may also be granted.

The Alien and Locally Absent Species in Aquaculture (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 (external link)

These Regulations provide for the implementation and enforcement of Council Regulation (EC) No 708/2007 concerning use of alien and locally absent species in aquaculture, the aim of which is to ensure there is adequate protection of aquatic habitats from the risks associated with the use of alien and locally absent species in aquaculture whilst contributing to the sustainable development of the aquaculture industry.