Minister Edna Molewa calls for comments from interested and affected parties on proposed Alien and Invasive Species Regulations
17 February 2014
The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa, has on Wednesday 12 February 2014, published for public comment under sections 66(1), 67(1), 70(1)(a), 71(3) and 71a of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004), the Regulations related to alien and listed invasive Species (AIS) in Gazette No. 37320.
The purpose of the Regulations is to prevent the illegal introduction of alien and potentially invasive species into the country, and to regulate listed invasive species and potentially invasive species within the country. Invasive species can have profound impacts on the environment, biological diversity, the economy and ecosystems and their services.
The Regulations provide for the categorisation of invasive species into four categories, to allow for the prioritized management of:
1a: those that are able to be brought under control quickly (and eradicated, where possible and appropriate);
1b: those that are most harmful species;
2: those that have value and can be utilized under specific circumstances and/or in specific demarcated areas; and,
3: those that are less harmful, and where management interventions are less demanding.
These Regulations serve to regulate the permit system and to regulate and prohibit the manner in which specific restricted activities may be carried out.
These Regulations do not attempt to regulate:
- dead specimens of alien species;
- alien species that have been legally introduced into South Africa; and,
- indigenous species that are also extra-limital species in South Africa (outside their natural distribution ranges and therefore classified as alien) that are not listed as Invasive Species.
Extra-limital indigenous mammal species in South Africa are exempted from these Regulations for a period of two years from the date upon which they take effect, during which time the distribution maps of these species will be finalized, and potential listing as invasive species will be considered. During this period, extra-limital mammal species listed as threatened or protected species in terms of Section 56(1) of National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004, will be regulated in terms of the Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) Regulations, whereas extra-limital mammal species not listed in terms of Section 56(1) will be regulated in terms of Provincial permits.
The Categories of Listed Invasive Species
The Regulations published for comment state that landowners are obliged to take immediate steps to control Category 1a species. This, therefore, means that if anyone carries out a prohibited activity or fails to control a Category 1a species, he/she would be committing an offence.
The requirement for Category 1b species is to “contain” the invasive species. However, where an Invasive Species Management Programme has been developed for a Category 1b species, then landowners would be obliged to “control” the species in accordance with the requirements of that programme. The difference between this Category and Category 1a is that Category 1a triggers an immediate obligation to control, whereas that obligation only comes into effect for Category 1b species when an Invasive Species Management Programme is implemented for that species in the specific area.
Category 2 species are the only species requiring a permit, and are species that have economic, recreational, aesthetic or other valued properties, notwithstanding their invasiveness. These species will be allowed in areas and under conditions specified in the permit. For certain taxa (notably large mammals and fish species), maps will be developed to aid the process of granting permits. It is important to note that a Category 2 species that falls outside the demarcated area specified in the permit, becomes a Category 1b invasive species.
Category 3 species are less-transforming invasive species which are regulated by activity. The principal focus with these species is to ensure that they are not introduced, sold or conveyed. However, Category 3 plant species are automatically Category 1b species within riparian and wetland areas.
According to the Regulations, permits will only be issued for Category 2 species. It is important to note that some of the Invasive Fresh-water Fish Species are listed as Category 2 invasive species in key “Fish Sanctuary Areas” and selected “Protected Areas”. This means that a permit is required to utilize these species and to introduce them into these areas, but some of the species are not regulated (with limited regulation) where they exist outside these areas. Critically, no fish species may be introduced into a catchment system in which it does not occur, without a permit, and there must be documented proof that they exist in the catchment system. A risk assessment may need to be done at the applicant’s expense to inform whether a permit should be issued. The regulation of fresh-water fish and invertebrates is nuanced, recognizing the value of these species for food security and recreational (and tourism) pursuits.
According to the draft regulations, all existing (Provincial) permits for fresh-water fish will be valid for a two-year period, during which time the permit-holder must register with the Department (through its Bio-security function).
The Regulations allow the issuing authority to suspend the operation of a permit if it is necessary in order to control or eradicate a particular alien or listed invasive species, the carrying out of the restricted activity permitted in terms thereof will have a significant harmful impact on the environment or ecosystems, or the species pose an immediate threat to the environment or ecosystems.
With regards to the duties of permit holders, the Regulations stipulate that permit-holders must take all the necessary steps to prevent the escape and spread of the species, including the growth or spread of seeds or any other specimens of the species, outside the area for which the permit is issued, and must take all necessary steps to control any specimen that escapes or spreads.
If a person is convicted of an offense in terms of the Regulations, such a person is liable to a fine not exceeding R5 million, or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years, or both such fine and imprisonment.
Minister Molewa has also published for public comment under sections 67 and 70 of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004), the lists of species in respect of which a permit may or may not be issued as well as activities that are prohibited and exempted from restriction in Gazette No 37320. The publication of these species also includes the restricted activities, exemptions as well as activities requiring permits for the respective species.
Invasive species are species that are introduced into an area in which they did not previously occur, and have been able to out-compete indigenous (and other) species and threaten or have demonstrable potential to threaten ecosystems, habitats or other species. The impacts can be devastating. Some of the examples include:
- Famine weed (Parthenium hysterophorus) is a Frankenstein-like plant that is not palatable to our game and stock species, and also causes allergies / legions and respiratory problems in humans (and other animals). It can rapidly spread across much of the country, and needs a regulated programme to prevent the ecological and economic damage it will otherwise wreak.
- Water hyacinth (Eichhornia species) can double the area it invades on water bodies within 7-10 days, in a growing season. It leads to massive loss of water, water-quality problems, eutrophication impacts (depletion of oxygen in the water, which leads to the death of fish and other species), loss of biological diversity, recreational impacts, disease problems, and other negative impacts.
- The brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) and the house rat (Rattus rattus) not only cause significant damage to biological diversity, the spread of disease, and attack children (and other humans), but have a devastating impact on the production of food (estimated to be eating 1/3 of all grain grown in Africa!).
- The small-mouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) is a voracious predator in the water bodies into which it has been introduced, eating anything and everything (and even other – more valuable – invasive species, like the brown trout (Salmo trutta) and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss).
- The Indian house crow (Corvus splendens) is arguably the world’s worst avian invader. It kills the young of indigenous bird species and domestic fowls (and other species), spreads disease, and even attacks young children. The programme to eradicate this species, through the Working for Water programme, is most promising, and is a demonstration model of what can be done.
- Invertebrates are a particular challenge, for our understanding of their ecological impact, and indeed threats to food security and human health. The red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) would be a good example of a species that would be invasive in our country, which we must try to keep out of the country.
- Diseases are perhaps the most challenging threat in the long-term. Microbial invasions are particularly difficult to detect and combat, and are seen as major risks in terms of human health, animal and plant health, and the economic, ecological and social impacts.
There are uncountable billions of specimens of almost one thousand listed invasive species already within South Africa. Invasive species by their nature invade. They spread and grow, and the situation quickly deteriorates, and can reach a threshold point of no return. Estimates have put the impact of invasive species on the economy at hundreds of billions of rands and without controls the costs would rapidly escalate as the invasives spread and grow, and could be further exacerbated by climate change. South Africa has only been able to eradicate one invasive species - a snail - thus far. Over R1 billion is spent on combating invasive species each year. This is why we need to take action to prevent new introductions, and to combat existing invasive species.
To access the notice on the Regulations related to listed Alien and Invasive Species, click on the link below:
Members of the public are invited to submit written comments to the Minister within 30 days of the publication of these notices. Comments on the Regulation may be addressed as follows:
By post to: The Deputy Director-General: Environmental Programmes
Attention: Dr Guy Preston
Private Bag X4390
Hand delivered to:
The Deputy Director-General: Environmental Programmes
Attention: Dr Guy Preston
14 Loop Street, Cape Town
By E-mail to: NSishuba@environment.gov.za
Ms Nomahlubi Sishuba, Director: Bio-security
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