The National Trust has launched a campaign in partnership with RSPB and the National Trust for Scotland to protect seabirds living on UK islands from predators.
The Save Our Seabirds project aims to raise awareness of the risk to seabirds such as puffins, Manx shearwater and European storm-petrel from predators such as rats, stoats and mink. It also advises what measures people can take to avoid accidentally transferring them to important seabird colonies on islands. This includes encouraging boat owners to check their boats, cargo and baggage, and for day trippers to check their bags and keep any foodstuffs in animal-proof containers.
The UK is home to an estimated eight million breeding seabirds, with up to half of the EU populations breeding on islands including the Farne Islands off the coast of Northumberland, Grassholm off the Welsh coast, Copeland in Northern Ireland and Foula one of the Shetland islands off the coast of Scotland.
Many of our most important seabird breeding colonies are on islands that are naturally free of predators. Around the world predation of seabird eggs and young by invasive, non-native predators is one of the leading causes of their decline. Over the centuries, many seabird colonies in the UK have suffered from falls in population or been lost completely in this way.
The four-year ‘Biosecurity for LIFE’ project will work with island managers, conservation organisations, island communities, and key marine industries to help keep the islands safe from predators that aren’t naturally found there.
Through training, an awareness-raising campaign, and practical on-the-ground conservation work, the project hopes to secure a future for the UK’s seabird islands free from this threat of predation. Many of these islands are already protected under European and national legislation as Special Protection Areas and the measures put in place by the project will help ensure they remain safe places for seabirds to raise their young.