Biosecurity for England

Biosecurity for England continues the work started by Biosecurity for LIFE in England, bringing together conservation organisations, island communities and businesses to safeguard England’s internationally important seabird islands against invasive non-native mammalian predators. This work is funded until March 2026 by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Seabird populations have been declining in recent years and as a result ‘Good Environmental Status’ has not been achieved under the UK Marine Strategy. Invasive predators can devastate seabird colonies and are known to reach new islands regularly by stowing away in baggage, cargo or on boats. Biosecurity for England will help stakeholders to identify and address the main biosecurity risks for England’s priority seabird islands and embed biosecurity practices into their day-to-day management.

Biosecurity for England continues work on England’s three offshore island Special Protection Areas (SPA) designated for breeding seabirds whilst also expanding biosecurity work at two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) designated for breeding seabirds. Biosecurity for England is working with conservation organisations, island communities and businesses on training, awareness raising and practical responses to suspected incursions on these seabird islands:

  • Farne Islands SPA, Northumberland
  • Coquet Island SPA, Northumberland
  • Isles of Scilly SPA, Cornwall
  • Steep Holm SSSI, Bristol Channel
  • Lundy SSSI, Bristol Channel
Project acknowledgements, timescale, and vision


When an invasive non-native mammalian predator has recently spread to an island but has not yet established a population. An incursion response is the planned actions taken when it is thought an invasive predator has reached an island.

Globally significant seabird populations in the UK are now better protected against the threat of invasive non-native mammalian predators thanks to the Biosecurity for LIFE project but we cannot be complacent. During Biosecurity for LIFE 25 incidents affecting sites we were working on were reported to us, ranging from shipwrecks and cargo spills to invasive predators found on island or jumping ashore from vessels.

Biosecurity measures need to be maintained indefinitely and everybody visiting or in the vicinity of a protected seabird island needs to be aware of the role they play in keeping the wildlife on these islands safe. Biosecurity for LIFE 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. Seabirds are under pressure from many threats including:

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

Biosecurity for LIFE trained the first conservation detection dog team to support biosecurity on the UK’s seabird islands by searching for rats. We are excited to have a biosecurity dog team working in England alongside their colleagues in Wales and Scotland to help keep our seabird islands rat-free. 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!



Biosecurity for England continues work on England’s three offshore island Special Protection Areas (SPA) designated for breeding seabirds whilst also expanding biosecurity work at two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) designated for breeding seabirds.


Our aims

  • Foster close collaboration on island biosecurity across England through working with a wide range of stakeholders to develop biosecurity capacity and ensure it is sustainable into the future.
  • Ensure all islands have up to date biosecurity plans detailing invasive predator surveillance measures and what to do in the event of an incursion.
  • Embed surveillance systems (e.g. wax chew blocks, tracking tunnels, trail cameras) on priority seabird islands in England. Ensure people are carrying out surveillance checks and being vigilant for invasive predators on islands as well as on human-assisted pathways to the islands such as boats.
  • Carry out periodic biosecurity dog checks on cargo, vessels, and islands in support of and alongside routine biosecurity surveillance.
  • Run targeted information campaigns to promote island biosecurity among island residents, visitors and businesses and raise awareness of preventative measures and what actions to take to reduce the risk of stowaways.
  • Improve effective rodent management measures at departure points and onboard vessels visiting islands. Raise awareness to ensure that vessels which discover they have a stowaway on board return to the mainland rather than land on island.
  • Maintain well-equipped Rapid Incursion Response Hubs and expand a well-trained volunteer task force who help carry out incursion responses if an invasive predator reaches a seabird island. Provide technical support to anybody leading on an incursion response.
  • Carry out a pathway risk analysis for all the sites to prioritise action on preventative measures and to reduce risk along key incursion pathways.