A northern gannet flying over the sea

Biosecurity for Life

The UK is home to some of the most important seabird colonies in the world. Many of these are on islands that don’t have any ground predators, so vulnerable eggs and chicks are safe. When people visit these islands, they can accidentally bring predators with them, and this can have devastating results.

Seabirds face many threats, but one of the greatest is from non-native invasive predators like rats, mice and mink. Biosecurity for LIFE was set up to help protect our seabird islands from this threat, but they need your help to do it.

A northern gannet on a cliff face looks directly at the camera

The furry threat facing our seabird sanctuaries

There are thousands of beautiful islands around the UK coastline. Many are home to internationally important populations of seabirds such as puffins, Manx shearwaters, Arctic terns and gannets. These birds have evolved to nest on the ground or in burrows, as their island homes have always been free of land predators.

Animals like rats, mice, stoats and mink find it hard to reach these islands by swimming, but they do sometimes stow away on boats. If they get onto a seabird island, the results can be devastating. Eggs and chicks of ground-nesting birds make an easy meal, and entire colonies of seabirds can be wiped out by invasive predators in just a few years. Once introduced, these animals are often extremely difficult and expensive to remove.

You can help keep these islands safe

Visiting one of our seabird islands is a special experience. If you’re planning a trip, you can help to keep these places safe for the future with just a few simple measures.  

Check your bags, cargo, vehicle and/or boat for furry stowaways before you travel.​

Whether you’re travelling in your own boat or taking a car on a ferry, check for stowaways before you set out. Don’t leave food in your vehicle unless it’s in a rodent-proof container. If you spot an unwelcome animal onboard your boat at sea, don’t push them overboard, and don’t land with them on any islands.  

A puffin stands on a cliff edge looking out to sea

Never leave litter, particularly food waste, behind when you visit an island. Bag everything up and take it with you.​

Rodents are attracted to food waste and can use it to help survive. Take all your rubbish home with you: even your apple cores and banana skins!

If you see a rat, mouse, mink, stoat or other mammals on a seabird island, report it.

 

​The sooner invasive species are dealt with, the better! Tell the island owner, or contact Biosecurity for Life directly.

The 42 very special islands

All our islands are wild and beautiful places, but there are 42 around the UK coast that are so important for seabirds, they’re internationally protected. Islands like Rum, which hosts a third of the entire world population of Manx Shearwaters every summer, or the Skerries, where nationally significant numbers of Arctic terns come to raise their chicks.

Some of these 42 islands are also RSPB nature reserves, like Fidra, and Coquet Island, many more host an RSPB nature reserve, like Rathlin Island, Hoy and Fetlar.

If you’d like to visit one of these 42 islands, please take particular care.

A pair of northern gannets preening on Bempton Cliffs RSPB reserve

Project Funding

The total project cost of €1.35m (£1.1m) is funded by a 60% contribution by the EU LIFE Environmental Governance and Information fund [LIFE 17 GIE/UK/000572], with co-financing provided by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Natural England (NE), the Northern Ireland Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and contributions from the project partners.