Biosecurity for Wales

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Biosecurity for Wales

The legacy of Biosecurity for LIFE (B4L) is a measurable improvement in biosecurity practice across all 42 UK Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated for breeding seabirds and that these globally significant seabird populations are now better protected against the threat of invasive mammalian predators such as rats and mink, but we cannot be complacent.

Whilst on land seabirds have very little defence against mammalian predators, because of this they tend to choose nesting sites which are inaccessible to these predators, often offshore islands. When these predators are introduced to seabird islands they devastate island seabird colonies, unfortunately they are known to reach new islands regularly. During B4L alone 25 incursion incidents were reported just on the islands included in the project, ranging from shipwrecks and cargo spills to invasive predators found on island or jumping ashore from vessels.

The Biosecurity for Wales (B4W) project builds on the successes of the B4L project and will run from 2023-2025, funded through Welsh Governments Nature Networks Fund (round 2) with the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project will continue to work with Wales’s offshore island SPAs designated for breeding seabirds and expand to include island Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) designated for breeding seabirds.

Seabirds in Wales

Wales’ responsibility for the fate of UK seabirds has never been greater, while many seabird populations have been declining, some seabird species in Wales have maintained their populations (prior to the current avian flu outbreak).

The population of Atlantic puffin, a species threatened with global extinction has increased in size in Wales over recent years, Wales also boasts the 3rd largest gannet colony in the UK and over 50% of the world’s population of Manx shearwaters (https://jncc.gov.uk/our-work/manx-shearwater-puffinus-puffinus/#annual-abundance-and-productivity-by-geographical-area-wales). Seabirds in Wales are concentrated on a relatively small number of islands, making their populations especially vulnerable. It is vital that we ensure these populations are sustained and protected.

The project will maintain and enhance biosecurity measures in Wales to reduce the threat of invasive predators such as rats reaching these seabird islands around Wales:

Biosecurity for Wales

Jinx

Biosecurity for LIFE trained the first conservation detection dog team to support biosecurity on the UK’s seabird islands by searching for rats. Jinx was trained as part of the Biosecurity for LIFE project to search for Brown rats (Rattus norvegicus). Jinx is now an integral part of Biosecurity for Wales. Dogs have 300million scent receptors compared to our 6million so are far better at detecting rodents than we are. Rather than relying on passive surveillance techniques alone, which require the invasive predator to encounter and interact with the detection tools we use, we now have an active detection tool in our toolkit which allows us to cover more ground and have more confidence in our results – a real game changer!

Jinx the dog

PROJECT VISION

At Biosecurity for LIFE we are focused primarily on 42 island special protection areas (SPAs) in the UK that are designated for breeding seabirds.

As indicated on the map, these islands are spread around the coastline of the UK including parts of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

PROJECT VISION

Seabirds need help

Seabirds are under pressure from many threats including:

  • Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (bird flu)
  • Climate change
  • Accidental bycatch (being caught accidentally by fishing practices)
  • Invasive non-native species
  • Lack of food due to overfishing
  • Offshore renewable energy infrastructure

Many of these pressures are human generated and we have a responsibility to alleviate what pressures we can. To stand a chance in a changing world, seabirds require their breeding grounds to remain free from predatory mammals, anyone travelling to a seabird island or in the vicinity of a protected seabird island has a responsibility to undertake basic checks before setting off and implement biosecurity measures.

Seabird populations have been declining in recent years and as a result, ‘Good Environmental Status’ has not been achieved under the UK Marine Strategy. Seabirds are long lived, slow to reach breeding age and adults rear relatively few chicks each year. This means that when adults die in large numbers the populations cannot breed fast enough to make up for the losses and species go into steep declines.

Through the B4L project (2018-2023), island communities, businesses, managers, landowners, conservation organisations, statutory bodies and volunteers in Wales have engaged in implementing biosecurity surveillance checks and measures across seabird island SPAs. B4L reached out to over 30 million people but there is still work to be done to embed biosecurity awareness and help people to take small but crucial steps to help protect our amazing seabirds.

Our aims

  • Biosecurity information, guidance and training materials made easily accessible to all, including biosecurity stakeholders, comprising of island communities, island managers and wardens, businesses, landowners, statutory bodies, volunteers, visitors, local councils, environmental organisations, key marine industries.
  • Embed biosecurity practices, such as up-to-date biosecurity plans, routine surveillance and periodic conservation detection dog checks, into the day-to-day management of seabird islands, prioritise action on preventative measures to reduce risk along key incursion pathways.
  • Develop a partnership of key stakeholder organisations working together and sharing the responsibility for implementing a sustainable national island biosecurity programme, continuing beyond 2025
  • Maintain well-equipped Rapid Incursion Response Hubs and provide technical support to expand a well-trained volunteer task force who help carry out incursion responses if an invasive predator reaches a seabird island.
  • Coordinate the collection of biosecurity surveillance and incursion response data