Legal Responsibilities

Below is some information on invasive non-native species relevant legislation for England and Wales.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981

The primary legislation for dealing with non-native species is the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Over time, amendments have been made to this legislation. It is important to make sure you are referring to the most up to date version of the relevant legislation.

Section 14 prohibits the introduction into the wild of any animal of a kind which is not ordinarily resident in, and is not a regular visitor to, Great Britain in a wild state, or any species of animal or plant listed in Schedule 9 to the Act. It is also illegal to plant or otherwise cause to grow in the wild any plant listed in Schedule 9 to the Act. Breaches can range from £5,000 fine and/or six months imprisonment to and an unlimited fine and/or two years imprisonment.

A list of Schedule 9 species can be found here

Section 14ZA of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, as inserted by section 50 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006, creates an offence of selling, offering or exposing for sale, or possessing or transporting for the purposes of sale, non-native species that are listed in Schedule 9 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act and are specified for the purposes of this section by the Secretary of State through secondary legislation.

A brief synopsis of other relevant legislation has been included below more detailed information can be found at the GBNNSS website and at

Import of Live Fish (England and Wales) Act, 1980

Under this Act, Ministers can make Orders to prohibit or license the import, keeping or release of live non-native fish or eggs in any part of England and Wales. This includes the Prohibition of Keeping or Release of Live Fish (Specified Species) Order 1998 which prohibits the unlicensed keeping or release of a range of species of non-native fish. The Prohibition of Keeping of Live Fish (Crayfish) Order 1996 aims to prevent the spread of non-native crayfish, and prohibits the unlicensed keeping of all non-native crayfish species in England and Wales.

Plant Health Act, 1967

The Plant Health Act, 1967 provides a regulatory framework to control pests and diseases injurious to agricultural or horticultural crops or to trees and bushes. Under this Act the Forestry Commission is the competent authority for the protection of forest trees and timber and the Secretary of State and the Scottish Ministers are the competent authority for all other plants. The Welsh Ministers are the competent authority for Wales.

Destructive Imported Animals Act, 1932

The Destructive Imported Animals Act, 1932 restricts the import and keeping of destructive non-indigenous animals. Natural England in England and Natural Resources Body in Wales can provide licence for import for export or research purposes.

Environmental Protection Act,1990

Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act, 1990 of the Act sets out the duty of care requirements for soil and other waste containing propagules which are classified as controlled waste. This of course includes Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica). The Environment Agency have issued guidance in ‘the knotweed code of practice’ which will be of use in complying with the duty of care.

Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act, 1975

The Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act, 1975 covers the introduction (and possession with the intention of introducing) both non-native species and native species outside of their natural range into inland waters. With Section 30 requiring permission from the Environment Agency in England and Natural Resources Body in Wales.

Bees Act, 1980

The Bees Act, 1980 gives power to the Ministers to make Orders which prevent the introduction of pests and diseases affecting bees into or within Great Britain. These can included the prohibiting of any appliance which is or may have been exposed to a pests and diseases listed within an Order.

Further information:

Great Britain non-native species secretariat.