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International Waters: Spanish Apple Snail Setback

Posted: March 28, 2012, 2:00 p.m., EDT


By John Dawes

Late summer and early autumn in 2011 saw great confusion regarding the importation of apple snails (Pomacea spp.) into Spain. First, the authorities led everyone to believe that all apple snail imports were banned. Later, they clarified the situation, saying that the ban extended to just two species: P. canaliculata and P. insularum.

Not surprisingly, many in the hobby were relieved to learn that the most popular apple snail in the trade, the spiketop apple snail (P. bridgesii), was exempt from the prohibition. The Spanish authorities took this decision in line with that adopted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) which deemed that, unlike the two other species, P. bridgesii does not present a threat to crops.

Once news of this clarification broke, trade in P. bridgesii immediately resumed. However, little more than one month later, the Spanish authorities issued a Royal Decree (Nov. 14, but published on Dec. 12) regulating a long list and catalogue of Spain’s invasive alien species.

Spiketop apple snails
The import of spiketop apple snails into Spain is now prohibited. John Dawes
Inclusion in the catalogue carries with it: “generic prohibition with regard to the possession, transport and commercialisation of living or dead specimens… including external trade.” Apple snails have been included in the catalogue as Pomacea spp., and according to this interpretation, listing in the catalogue doesn’t allow for a distinction between the species. As a result, imports of all apple snails into Spain are now definitely banned…and with immediate effect.

This decision has, obviously, caused chaos and distress within the industry, especially as it follows the official clarification issued by the authorities allowing trade in P. bridgesii just weeks before the royal decree. Also distressing is the fact that the decree offers no grace period. Further, since, by implication, the ban also extends to intra-European movement of consignments into Spain, there’s now no legal way spiketop apple snails can be brought into the country.

The Spanish pet trade association, AEDPAC, has condemned the decision, which it feels is unjust, and has complained officially to the authorities. In the lead-up to the Royal Decree, AEDPAC had argued that P. bridgesii should not be included in the catalogue (for the reasons given above), but that it should be included in the listing instead. This listing includes species that could be deemed susceptible to become a threat, or with invasive potential. Such inclusion prohibits the liberation of such species into the natural environment, but not trade in such species.

As I write these lines, there’s no news as to whether or not the Spanish authorities will enter into dialogue with the AEDPAC to re-assess the situation. I will, of course, report any developments.

Acknowledgement: I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Josep Arnas, Secretary General of AEDPAC, for his kind assistance during the preparation of this piece.

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