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Tough law on invasive species put out for public viewpoints

Invasive lionfish: native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the lionfish has proved to be a significant threat to reef fish in the Atlantic. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The public has been asked for its views as the Government draws up legislation to tackle the threat of invasive plants and animals.

The proposed Invasive Alien Species Act was designed to prevent the introduction of new pest species and control the spread of those already on the island.

Members of the public were asked to submit their own ideas on the draft proposals online from Monday to September 7.

The Government website said: “Modern global travel is essential to Bermuda’s economic survival, but it also makes the island increasingly vulnerable to the introduction and proliferation of invasive, alien species that can and do have a negative impact on the island’s environment, economy, human health, and social fabric.

“The purpose of the Invasive Alien Species Act 2021 is to improve the island’s biosecurity by allowing for the assessment and listing of a pest species to the corresponding level of actions needed to minimise its impacts.”

The public was asked to suggest species to be included in the legislation’s list of prohibited and restricted species.

Prohibited species would include species not present and not wanted in Bermuda, such as snakes, scorpions and giant land snails, which have created to be a health hazard in other countries.

It would be illegal to own, sell, import or breed prohibited animals or plants.

The restricted species list would include plants and animals already found on the island.

The restricted list would be broken into two subcategories, one for non-native species that are problematic – such as lionfish and Brazil pepper – and one for species present in low numbers that could become problematic if their numbers increased – such as spiders and wasps.

The first category of species cannot be bred, imported or sold without a permit.

The second can be bred, but not imported or sold without a permit.

All species not already present in Bermuda would need to undergo a bio-risk assessment before they can be brought to the island.

The Government website said: “These assessments will be undertaken and submitted on behalf of the applicant by an approved agent to ensure the provision of accurate information.

“Applications will be reviewed by the director in consultation with technical officers, in respect to ecosystem, agriculture, horticulture and fisheries related matters and the Ministry of Health for human health related matters.”

Members of the public can also give their views on the licensing system, offences and penalties under the proposed legislation.

The Act would require the preparation of management plans for invasive species, including a provision that allowed the Minister of Home Affairs to enter into an agreement with a landowner to assist with the control of invasive species.

The legislation would also allow the Minister to apply to the Supreme Court for an order if an agreement was not reached.

Powers will also be granted to investigate, seize and destroy prohibited species and seize restricted species, and there would be requirements to assist with an investigation.

The amendments would also include penalties for people who imported, released, bred, propagated or sold prohibited or restricted species, with maximum fines of $50,000 and two years behind bars for the most serious offences.

The minister would be able to grant amnesties to encourage people to surrender prohibited or restricted species.

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Published August 12, 2021 at 7:52 am (Updated August 12, 2021 at 7:45 am)

Tough law on invasive species put out for public viewpoints

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