OT Biosecurity Project

Tackling Invasive Non-native Species in the UK Overseas Territories

In 2016, the UK Government committed £2.75m to assisting the UK OTs in tackling invasive non-native species under the Honolulu Challenge, an international call for action against invasive alien species launched by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Specifically, this involves a commitment of £1 million towards developing comprehensive biosecurity for the OTs by providing them with access to UK expertise on risk analysis, pathway management, pest identification, horizon scanning, contingency planning, rapid response capability and species management.

The OT Biosecurity Project runs to March 2020 and is coordinated by a team led by the GB Non-native Species Secretariat.

The project was initiated with a biosecurity gap analysis. Current activities include:

  • A repeat of the gap analysis has been done to assess the progress of the project, 2017 to 2020
  • A marine biosecurity toolkit has been developed by the JNCC under the project
  • Biosecurity travel advice has been collated for all the Overseas Territories
  • A lot of useful guides, protocols and other material in editable form are available in the Biosecurity Toolkit
  • Providing technical support for biosecurity on request

Project news

January 2020

A newly published paper in Global Change Biology on the horizon scanning exercise carried out for the Antarctic region is available (open access) at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.14938 

Invasive non‐native species likely to threaten biodiversity and ecosystems in the Antarctic Peninsula region

Kevin A. Hughes, Oliver L. Pescott, Jodey Peyton, Tim Adriaens, Elizabeth J. Cottier‐Cook, Gillian Key, Wolfgang Rabitsch, Elena Tricarico, David K. A. Barnes, Naomi Baxter, Mark Belchier, Denise Blake, Peter Convey, Wayne Dawson, Danielle Frohlich, Lauren M. Gardiner, Pablo González‐Moreno, Ross James, Christopher Malumphy, Stephanie Martin, Angeliki F. Martinou, Dan Minchin, Andrea Monaco, Niall Moore, Simon A. Morley, Katherine Ross, Jonathan Shanklin, Katharine Turvey, David Vaughan, Alexander G. C. Vaux, Victoria Werenkraut, Ian J. Winfield & Helen E. Roy.

The Antarctic Peninsular region (APR) is considered to be a pristine environment relative to other regions of the Earth. Taxonomic and Antarctic experts undertook a horizon scanning exercise using expert opinion and consensus approaches to identify the species that are likely to present the highest risk to biodiversity and ecosystems within the APR over the next 10 years. One hundred and three species, currently absent in the APR, were identified as relevant for review, with 13 species identified as presenting a high risk of invading the APR. Marine invertebrates dominated the list of highest risk species. Without the application of appropriate biosecurity measures, rates of introductions and invasions within the APR are likely to increase, resulting in negative consequences for the biodiversity of the whole continent, as introduced species establish and spread further due to climate change and increasing human activity.

September 2019

Biosecurity training for the Caribbean

The GB Non-native Species Secretariat is pleased to welcome a group of biosecurity officers from the six UK Overseas Territories in the wider Caribbean region who are participating in a 5-day workshop on biosecurity for plant health import control staff, run by Fera.

The workshop builds on the horizon scanning exercise carried out in 2018 to identify the priority invasive species not yet in each Territory, and pathway action planning to develop mitigation actions to reduce the risk of their arrival. Topics covered include practical entomology, field inspections and biosecurity procedures for border controls.

Despite heavy rain, the group spent a morning with Plant Health and Seed Inspectors at a local plant nursery, learning about import plant health inspections.

Identifying insects

Day 4 saw the participants out in the field collecting invertebrate samples. Despite the cool autumn weather, a wide range of specimens were found in the grounds outside the training room in York. These included mites and a variety of insect larvae as well as adult beetles and ants, giving participants an opportunity to practice using USB microscopes to check their identifying characteristics.

These light and versatile microscopes are a very useful tool for biosecurity officers, for use both in the field and laboratory. Lack of equipment is a big problem for many of the UK Overseas Territories, and one microscope was provided to each participant for use back home to help them in the identification of intercepted organisms.

The workshop runs from the 23rd to 27th September, and involves participants from Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and Turks & Caicos Islands. One of the main outcomes is the formation of professional networks among the Territories, offered by this opportunity to meet, talk and share concerns and ideas.

August 2019

Check out our new Field Guides on the Biosecurity Tool Kit page. The Field Guide to invasive alien plant pests in the South Atlantic UK Overseas Territories has comprehensive factsheets for 31 invertebrate species overall, split into 5 parts to make it easier to download and access, covering plant damage and specimen collection, termites, beetles, earwigs, flies, bugs, ants, wasps, moths, and other invertebrates (non-insects). The Field Guide to invasive alien pests in the Pitcairn Islands has 1-page factsheets for 29 species, and include plants, invertebrates, vertebrates and marine species.

July 2019

Pathway action planning completed for the Caribbean

Pathway action planning workshops have now been held in Montserrat, Anguilla and British Virgin Islands, which means that all six Overseas Territories in the wider-Caribbean region have now completed pathway action planning.

Some common issues were found across all the territories. These were: lack of facilities, limited staffing and resources, and weak legislation. The problem of smuggling was also highlighted, as well as pressure from the tourism sector to have as few barriers to free entry as possible.

Participants were asked what they thought were the priority pathways in terms of biosecurity risk - this was a subjective assessment which including consideration of the new invasive species likely to arrive by that pathway, the volume of imports coming in via the pathway, and existing capacity to mitigate the risk along the pathway. Live plants, live animals, shipping containers, and construction materials (including aggregate and lumber) all featured.

Common actions identified during the workshops include biosecurity training or briefing to partner agencies such as customs and port authority so that they can more effectively take on biosecurity functions, and public awareness and education, including the need to put adequate signage at ports of entry. Support for drafting biosecurity legislation is being provided by the project to Montserrat and TCI, and BVI’s own drafter is planning to use the generic model legislation as a resource for his own drafting work.

May 2019

Pathway action planning underway

With the completion of the horizon scanning exercise for the OTs, work is now focused on looking at ways to reduce the risk of arrive of the identified species.

Visits have been made to Bermuda, St Helena, Falkland Islands, Cayman Islands and Turks & Caicos Islands to help colleagues identify appropriate cost-effective actions which can be put in place to reduce the risk of priority pathways introducing new potentially invasive species. Examples of actions include improved signage at ports of entry, extending biosecurity training to customs officers, Port Authority personnel and port security staff, and identification of key sites for post-border monitoring for weeds.

For the South Georgia government, a 1-day training session was held for the Government Officers, covering monitoring for rodents, basic entomology, and fresh produce inspection techniques.

March 2019

New e-learning available - Biosecurity for the Overseas Territories

A new e-learning module, Biosecurity for the Overseas Territories, is now available on the NNSS e-learning website.

January 2019

Completing horizon scanning for Gibraltar

A horizon scanning workshop was held for Gibraltar from 21st to 24th January 2019, coordinated by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Climate Change, and the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens. Find out more here.

December 2018

Completing horizon scanning for the Atlantic territories

A team of 16 people headed out to St Helena Island in November to carry out the final tranche of horizon scanning for the Atlantic territories: St Helena Island, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha. The workshop was hosted by the Agriculture and Natural Resources Division of the St Helena Government (SHG), with participants including the international team led by Prof Helen Roy from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and local experts from SHG, the St Helena National Trust and independent consultants. Find out more here.

October 2018

First horizon scanning exercise for the Atlantic territories

The programme of horizon scanning to identify priority non-native invasive species of concern to each UK Overseas Territory has now been completed for the first three of the six Atlantic Territories. The consensus workshop for the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI), and the British Antarctic Territory (BAT) was held from 22nd to 25th October at the David Attenborough Building, Cambridge. Around 25 participants attended the workshop, which was hosted by the IUCN and led by Prof. Helen Roy from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, assisted by a team of local and global taxonomic experts. Find out more here.

August 2018

British Indian Ocean Territory horizon scanning exercise

Horizon scanning was completed in early August 2018 for the British Indian Ocean Territory; click here for further details.

June 2018

Caribbean horizon scanning exercise

The first horizon scanning exercise was held for the six Caribbean Overseas Territories, in the Cayman Islands from 21 to 25 May. Hosted jointly by the Cayman Islands’ Department of Environment and Department of Agriculture, the workshop was led by Prof. Helen Roy from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, assisted by a team of taxonomic experts from the EU and Caribbean region. A total of 40 participants developed short-lists of priority species for both the wider region as a whole, and for each individual Territory. Lists are being finalised and will be available here when complete.

Field guide for Caribbean plant pests

Identification of non-native invertebrate species can be a problem for agricultural workers and biosecurity officers. Fera Science Ltd have produced a draft Field Guide to Invasive Alien Plant Pests in the Caribbean UK Overseas Territories. The Field Guide includes examples of impact, a general introduction to the taxonomic groups, field diagnosis and 50 fact sheets for common pest species.

E-learning on Better Biosecurity

A draft e-learning module “Better Biosecurity” has been developed and is available here. The module is designed to provide basic biosecurity training for people working at the front line in biosecurity, both at the border and internally: biosecurity officers, customs officers, and conservationists, etc.

Image: South Georgia, MOD Crown Copyright

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