Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Non-native species

Non-native species

There are several thousand non-native species in the UK. A minority pose serious ecological or economic threats and are described as invasive non-native species. For example, Japanese knotweed causes problems for the construction and transport infrastructure sectors.

New species are being introduced to Europe, for example through trade, horticulture, landscaping, transport of goods, etc. There is a risk of introducing new invasive species that will become problems in the future.

In Northern Ireland

Unless you obtain a licence to do so, it is an offence in Northern Ireland to release into the wild, or allow to escape into the wild, an animal that is:

It is also an offence if you plant or cause to grow in the wild certain listed species of plant

You must apply to the NIEA wildlife team for any exceptions to these provisions.

NIEA: Wildlife team   or by email:  info@invasivespeciesireland.com

You can complete an application for a Wildlife Licence online at:

GOV.UK: Apply for a Northern Ireland wildlife licence

You can also get in touch by email at: BCSGeneral@daera-ni.gov.uk or call: 028 9056 9558

New Legislation relating to invasive species

The Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order (Northern Ireland) 2019 (“the Enforcement Order”) came into force on 1 December 2019.

This relates to The Regulation (EU) No. 1143/2014 on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species ("the Principal Regulation")  which came into force on 1 January 2015.

It imposes strict restrictions on a list of species known as ‘species of Union concern’. These are species whose potential adverse impacts across the European Union are such that concerted action across Europe is required.

The restrictions mean that (subject to certain defences, or exemptions through permits or licences) species of Union concern cannot be imported into the EU, kept, bred, transported, placed on the market, used or exchanged, allowed to reproduce, grown or cultivated, or released into the environment.

Full list of Species of Union concern

In Scotland

Unless you obtain a licence to do so, it is an offence in Scotland to:

  • release an animal to a place outwith its native range
  • allow an animal to escape from captivity to a place outwith its native range
  • otherwise cause an animal (outwith the control of a person) to be at a place outwith its native range. plant a plant in the wild outwith its native range
  • otherwise cause a plant to grow in the wild outwith its native range

The licensing authority for this is NatureScot

More information on these offences, your responsibilities and some exceptions can be found in:
Scottish Government: Code of Practice on Non-Native Species

Further information

Scottish Government: Non-native species

Invasive Species Ireland

DAERA: Invasive alien species

In this Guideline

How conservation and biodiversity relate to your business

How businesses rely on natural resources and services

Protected sites and priority habitats

Protected and priority species

Non-native species

Environmental damage to biodiversity

Managing biodiversity: Establish the baseline

Managing biodiversity: Create a site action plan

Managing biodiversity: Measure performance

Work with other organisations on biodiversity

Conservation and biodiversity legislation

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