A picture of a gannet, puffin and a razorbill standing infront of a SOS sign


The introduction of predators such as rats, stoats, mink, and feral cats to islands is a serious threat to the UK’s breeding seabirds. Help to prevent this by checking for stowaways before visiting an island


Biosecurity is the practice of protecting places from the threats to wildlife posed by introducing new diseases or types of plants or animals that do not naturally occur there. Seabirds often choose to nest on islands with no land predators and are particularly vulnerable to introduction of predators.

We are working hard to raise awareness of the threat of invasive predators and put in place systems to prevent their accidental introduction to islands.

Biosecurity for LIFE ran from August 2018 to July 2023 and is now followed by legacy projects in England, Scotland and Wales, and ongoing organisational support for Northern Ireland islands.

Layman’s Reports

The Biosecurity for LIFE project produced three reports to share methods, successes and lessons.

They are intended as guides to help conservation professionals embed biosecurity into seabird island strategies and operational practices.

Project achievements Raising awareness Implementing biosecurity plans

Help us to prevent the introduction of invasive species


Ground nesting seabirds and their chicks are at danger from invasive species


Look out for these

Invasive Predators

Brown Rat

Brown & Black Rats

Rats are one the most successful invasive mammals worldwide. They are incredibly adaptable, take advantage of any food source, breed quickly and are easy to accidentally transport. They are also very good swimmers, for example a brown rat will comfortably swim a kilometre in calm waters, and may swim a lot further. For seabirds they are bad news as they will prey on eggs, chicks and even adults of some species.



More commonly regarded as a pest of food stores mouse populations can quickly grow when food availability is high. On seabird islands they can predate eggs and chicks of smaller species, especially storm-petrels. On islands in the Southern Ocean (for example Gough and Marion), mice have even taken to predating the much larger albatross species.

Feral Cat

Feral Cat

Populations of feral cats have caused the extirpation and extinction of many species on islands around the world. These highly skilled hunters can cause severe declines in adult breeding seabirds at their colonies.



Stoats are native to the UK mainland but not our seabird islands. Excellent hunters capable of taking on prey larger than themselves, they will hunt adult birds as well as raid nests for eggs and chicks. Stoats can easily be transported in animal feed and bedding, and they are excellent swimmers. A stoat has been recorded swimming over 3.5 km in open water!



Originating from North America these excellent swimmers can easily move between islands that are close together, and will comfortably swim 5 km or more in good conditions. During the seabird breeding season, they will target the eggs and chicks but will take adult birds too. Known to stash food when availability is high one individual can quickly destroy large numbers of nests.



Hedgehog are native to the UK mainland where they face serious declines and are of conservation concern. Hedgehogs are not so keen on swimming and are unlikely to travel as stowaways, but once taken to an offshore island they are not native to, they can cause serious negative impacts to all ground-nesting birds through predation of eggs and young.

Report Island sighting



You can take responsibility for your own biosecurity by following these important steps before visiting your island destination:

  • Check your baggage for signs of stowaways
  • Store food in mouse-proof containers
  • If you operate a vessel travelling to an island regularly check your vessel for signs of stowaways
  • If you are transporting bulky items check them for signs of stowaways and avoid storing them where invasive predators can access prior to travel
  • Pack food on the day you travel
  • If you see a stowaway on board your transport to an island do not land at your island destination. Also do not push it overboard (most mammals are good swimmers)
  • Report sightings of invasive mammals to the island owner or fill in the contact us form at the foot of our website
  • Dispose of your rubbish and waste materials responsibly

Help us to protect

Our amazing seabirds



The UK is home to around 10% of the global population of this very charismatic seabird. Puffins typically form life-long bonds and return to the same nesting site ever year, where they lay their one egg in a burrow.. They are highly colonial and favour sites free from mammalian predators. Puffins are now considered to be at global threat of extinction.



The UK holds roughly 20% of the global population of this smart-looking seabird. They tend to lay their one egg out of sight in crevices among cliffs and boulders or on small ledges.



This highly gregarious seabird nests in large colonies and is the most abundant UK seabird. Colonies occur on steep cliffs where they can be seen jostling for space. These cliffs are safe from most mammalian predators. No nest is built, with their one egg laid onto bare rock.

European storm-petrel

European storm-petrel

The smallest seabird in the world, the European storm-petrel spends most of its life at sea, returning to land only to breed. Nesting occurs mainly on rocky offshore islands free from mammalian predators, which is critical to their success. One egg is laid later in the summer than with most other seabirds, and chicks sometimes fledge as late as November.



Almost 60% of the global breeding population of Gannet, the North Atlantic’s largest seabird, occur on UK islands. Gannets nest in large colonies and lay one egg each year.



The UK hosts five species of breeding tern: Arctic, Sandwich and Common are the most abundant with Little and Roseate considerably scarcer. All species are highly migratory outside of the breeding season and have some of the longest migrations of all bird species. Terns are ground-nesters and occur in gregarious colonies, mainly located in low-lying coastal areas.

Manx shearwater

Manx shearwater

Almost 80% of the world population of Manx shearwater breed in the UK. Manx shearwater only land at breeding colonies, where they nest in burrows, on dark nights. These birds form a life-long bond with their partner and return to the same breeding site every year to reaffirm that bond, and the parents take turns to incubate their single egg and feed the chick. Before they fledge chicks stargaze from burrow entrances to help them find their way back when it is their turn to breed.

Do you own a boat?

How you can help

You can take responsibility for your own biosecurity by following these important steps before visiting your island destination:

  • Deploy chew cards or wax chew blocks and check regularly for signs of stowaways
  • Repack luggage before boarding and never leave unattended on harbour side
  • Pack cargo in rodent proof containers and check before boarding
  • Store waste securely in rodent proof bins and dispose of regularly
  • Use rat guards on mooring lines and anchor chains
  • Always use an open tender when landing on a seabird island and check for signs of stowaways before launching
  • Inspect and shake out nets, lines and creels before taking them on board
  • Spread the word! Display biosecurity advice for passengers onboard



May 2024

Volunteering on Papa Stour

My introduction to the Biosecurity for LIFE project was during annual seabird monitoring visits to the Shiants, an uninhabited group of islands in the Western Isles, as a member of the Shiants Seabird Research Group. Several members of SSRG assisted the RSPB during the rat eradication during the winter of...

25 May 2023
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Working with island land managers and communities to develop and implement biosecurity plans

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Supporting biosecurity surveillance for invasive predators by training personnel, deploying surveillance equipment and training a specialized biosecurity dog

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Developing a network of regional hubs equipped to rapidly respond in the event of an incursion.

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Providing training to marine industries and businesses on how to undertake and implement effective biosecurity when operating in areas of risk


Biosecurity for LIFE focussed primarily on all 42 island Special Protection Areas (SPAs) in the UK designated for breeding seabirds. The legacy projects in England, Scotland and Wales have now expanded this work to Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) designated for breeding seabirds

Map of our protected islands
Illustration of birds

Contact Us

If you’d like more information or would like to report a sighting of an invasive predator please contact us using the form below:

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