EU measures on Pomacea insularum
The European Food Safety Authority has recently published an opinion http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/2552.htm evaluating a Spanish pest risk analysis on Pomacea insularum, the island apple snail. The PRA had been prepared in response to the presence of the snail in the Ebro delta of Spain, where it has been causing damage to rice production and the natural environment. As the snail can currently be imported, bred and traded freely, there is the possibility of release into the environment, either intentionally, or accidentally from outdoor aquaria and breeding sites etc.
The EFSA opinion largely supports the Spanish PRA regarding the threat that the snail poses should there be further introductions and spread. While rice fields and natural wetlands are known to be at risk, other aquatic environments could also be threatened, through impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity. Large parts of the EU could be at risk due to the snail's polyphagous nature and the fact that it can survive in a range of climatic conditions. This includes wetlands and other aquatic bodies in the UK.
The EU's Standing Committee on Plant Health has considered the Spanish PRA and EFSA opinion and concluded that legislative measures to prevent further introduction and spread should be considered. This could include a ban on import, breeding and trade. In addition to Pomacea insularum, there is the possibility of measures being extended to Pomacea canaliculata, which is considered to be virtually indistinguishable from P. insularum, or even all Pomacea.
To help ensure that any measures are evidence based and proportionate, views are invited from organisations and individuals with an interest in the snail. For those in the trade, it would be helpful to have evidence about the scale of the industry and volumes and value of snails being imported, bred and traded. Also, what the impact would be in the event that such actions were prohibited in future. For instance, are other species available which could replace Pomacea? It would be helpful to receive views on whether there is any evidence to support different approaches for Pomacea, other than P. insularum. Views are also welcome on the potential environmental impact of the snail and from those responsible for aquaria, water gardens etc.
The Standing Committee on Plant Health will be starting the process of considering legislative measures possibly as early as 20 February, therefore any initial views would be welcome by then. But contributions after that date are also welcome, as the process will take several months at least.
Comments should be sent to:
Plant Health Risk Management
The Food and Environment Research Agency