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British Canoeing joins environmental partners asking government to invest in the prevention of river-choking plants

British Canoeing has joined Environment groups are urging the Government to commit in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review to spend £6 million a year on preventing invasive plants and animals establishing in the UK. New research estimates this investment would save a whopping £2.7 billion for our economy over the next 20 years by preventing damage from new invasive species – giving an economic return of £23 for every £1 spent.[1]

New estimates and a new report from Wildlife and Countryside Link, the largest environmental coalition in England, also demonstrate that increasing the invasive species defence budget from the current spend of just under £1 million per year, to £6 million per year would:

· Provide jobs and/or training for tens of thousands of people – boosting our Green Recovery from COVID-19. If combined with a Government-funded National Nature Service, an estimated 4,000 coordinators, 75,000 volunteers and 2,000 contractors would vastly expand the limited Local Action Groups across Britain that are currently tackling our invasive species problem [3]

· Drastically reduce the increase in invasive species’ costs to the economy by 80%. An estimated 42 new invasive species will establish in the UK by 2040 without Government action. This would cost our economy around £3.4 billion over the next 20 years. But with the investment of £6m p.a. this figure could be slashed by 80% to around £670 million. Saving around £135 million per year. 

· Prevent the establishment of 24 new invasive species and eradicate 10 established invasive species by 2040, helping to protect vulnerable UK species from pests, predation, disease and competition

Richard Atkinson, Waterways and Environment Policy Officer at British Canoeing, said: "The impact of invasive species on our rivers can spoil many beloved nature spots, affect our enjoyment of and activity in nature, and come with a hefty price tag to remedy.

"Paddlers are doing their bit to prevent invasive spreading by remaining alert to potential risk species, keeping their equipment clean from contamination and helping with clean-ups in their local rivers. 

"But our Government has the power to help tap into a citizens army of paddlers and other volunteers by funding more strategic action and coordination in prevention of invasive species. This could make a huge difference in turning the tide for nature and those who enjoy it."

Dr Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: ‘Ships clogged by mussels, crops and timber ruined by pests, and waterways blocked by weeds all come at a heavy economic price. Invasive species are costly for the economy as well as exacting a toll on wildlife. A relatively small Government investment of six million pounds per year offers a triple win, supporting jobs, preventing the cost from invaders rocketing, and protecting vulnerable UK wildlife.’ 

The proposed increased budget of £6m to tackle invasive species would not eradicate all the established species currently in the UK, nor would it be able to prevent all new invasive species establishing. Even with this additional investment the number of invasive species in the UK would still be likely to increase from around 275 today to 283 by 2040, a rise of 8 species costing in the region of an additional £33.6m to the economy each year (on top of the current estimated £2.2 billion p.a. cost). However this Government investment would enable the UK to tackle several of the most damaging species already established here and prevent the most harmful new species arriving on our shores – saving huge sums for businesses, government and homeowners and protecting vulnerable UK wildlife.