Britain needs powers to battle invaders from Asian hornets to Caspian killer shrimp before its natives are overrun.
“We have to be smart and pick the fights that we know we can win,” said Joan Walley, chairing a committee of lawmakers investigating invasive species in the U.K. “Once organisms like the frightening Asian Hornet are here, they can be very difficult to control.”
Stings from the insects have killed six people in France and they may soon arrive in the U.K., the politicians said in a report. Listing species for monitoring is slow and Britain must bring in legal powers allowing authorities to quickly access land, find invading creatures and control them, they said.
Non-native species cost the European Union 12 billion euros ($17 billion) a year, according to the European Environment Agency.
While new species have long arrived in Britain, with American gray squirrels first released in the 19th century, shipping and travel has accelerated the trend. Climate change also helps some creatures spread. About 1,875 non-native species are established in the U.K., rising by about 10 a year, the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee said in its report.
Some 282 of those are deemed invasive, meaning they overrun native populations with greater abundance, density or dominance, according to the parliamentary panel. “We can and must control other invasive species, like the killer shrimp devastating ecosystems in our rivers and lakes,” Walley said.
The U.K. has no formal surveillance system to monitor invasive creatures and trigger eradication programs, the panel said. Floating pennywort deprives fish of oxygen, zebra mussels clog pipes raising water treatment costs and Oak Processionary Moths can cause respiratory problems and irritate the skin.
Killer shrimp, the common name for a crustacean native to rivers in the basins of the Black and Caspian Seas, can destroy fish stocks. It was found in the U.K. in Grafham Water, near Cambridge in 2010, according to evidence heard by the panel.
Anglian Water Group Ltd., manager of the reservoir, ensured sailors and other users rinse down kit to prevent spreading the species to other waterways. It has so far been limited to four sites in England and Wales.
Battling Japanese knotweed, which can push through concrete and damage buildings, sets Britain back about 165 million pounds ($276 million) a year. Removing the plant from the 2012 London Olympics site cost about 70 million pounds.