§ Mr. Alton
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) if he will make a statement on the spread and effects of Artioposthia triangulata in Northern Ireland;
(2) what information his Department has as to how Artioposthia triangulata first entered Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement;
(3) what studies have been commissioned about the spread and effects of Artioposthia triangulata; and if he will make a statement;
(4) what studies his Department has commissioned into the effect of Artioposthia triangulata on the earthworm population of Northern Ireland and if he will make a statement.952W
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley
The New Zealand planarian (flatworm), Artioposthia triangulata, has colonised Northern Ireland. It feeds on earthworms and may be capable of reducing populations. It is found in all counties in Northern Ireland and has been associated with the disappearance of worms from grassland.
The Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland has a programme of research into the distribution and biology of Artioposthia triangulata in Northern Ireland. Associated with this research, scientists are also monitoring reported sightings elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Research is necessary to define both the threat and the need for control measures.