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Public survey on tougher rules to protect island from imported pests

A Madagascar giant hognose snake at the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo. (File photograph)

The public has been asked for their views on proposed legislation designed to tackle the threat from imported animals and plants.

Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, said the draft Invasive Alien Species Act 2021 would strengthen protection and mean better enforcement at the island’s borders.

Mr Roban added: “There are issues with how we can adequately manage and control invasive species – there are gaps in relation to when certain species are brought into the island and how we can properly apprehend them when they get here.

“We also need to update the types of species that we need to pay attention to and control.”

He said that one of the problems that had to be tackled was that present legislation made it difficult for the Government to seize plants and animals once they cleared Customs.

Mr Roban explained: “As the law stands right now, if someone you know brought in a species of animal from another country and found a way to conceal it and get it through our Customs check and our airport, once they get on the other side we can’t take it from them.

“The law doesn’t allow us to because it is their property. Then you have a species of animal here that is not a part of our biosphere, and that can have unintended consequences.”

He said that over the years the Government had faced with a wide range of invasive species – some brought to the island by accident and others on purpose.

Mr Roban added: “We have found things like certain species of snakes.

On occasion, people try to smuggle different types of plants and seedlings and that material can carry biological material that could be damaging to our environment.

“The difference between now and times past is things can get here from all over the world quite quickly and, if it is not managed quickly, can have quite an adverse impact on our delicate biosphere.”

He added that species brought to the island legally could become environmental threats.

Mr Roban said: “Pacu, a species of piranha, has been brought here legitimately, and then people have dumped them into ponds.

“We have pacu that are extremely large – something comparable to a hogfish – found in one of the ponds in Bermuda.

“Although these are vegetarians, they were nipping the feet of ducks and injuring the ducks in the pond.”

He said care had to be taken when plants or animals were brought to the island, which was one of the reasons why bananas and Christmas trees underwent stringent checks.

Mr Roban added: “On a recent occasion, a wasps hive was found in a shipment of trees. We were able to take it and deal with it, but if something like that made it to Bermuda accidentally and established, it is not a species that is here so it can have an irreparable impact.

“People have opened up containers on the docks and mongooses or squirrels have run out.

“These are things that we need to be able to deal with now and into the future.”

He said Bermuda’s regime was already strict – and it had to be.

He said: “Some people may get a little irritated, even some of the farmers and horticultural businesses, but the reality is the regime is quite respected in the region

“If you go to other places where they have allowed things like fully grown trees to be imported, that has allowed invasive pests to come in and contaminate their ecosystem, which in turn makes it harder for the jurisdiction to export produce because they have infestations that other countries don’t want to import.

“Bananas is one example where we have had to be very rigid because we don’t want any insects and pests to come in with the shipments and damage our own environment.”

Mr Roban appealed to the public and interested groups to review the draft legislation online and submit their opinions.

He said: “We want to get people’s feedback on the draft so that we can have something that people understand, particularly those that have to deal with this regularly for their businesses and what they do.”

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Published August 16, 2021 at 7:50 am (Updated August 16, 2021 at 12:30 pm)

Public survey on tougher rules to protect island from imported pests

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