Check for stowaway rodents to help save our seabirds

Sarah Lawrence, Biosecurity Officer for West and Central Scotland said it was great to meet boat operators on Mull.

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Boat owners on Mull are being urged to check for stowaways daily to help save the area’s sea birds.

And day trippers visiting the Treshnish Isles and Staffa are being encouraged to keep an eye on their bags and seal away food in another bid to stop invasive predators such as rats and mink getting across.

Special  chew cards have also been given out to boat owners by a biosecurity project that visited Mull recently on a mission to try and keep precious seabird colonies rodent free.

The idea of the chew cards is to help boat owners pick up on signs that predators may have sneaked on board.

Biosecurity for LIFE project, a partnership between the RSPB, the National Trust and the National Trust for Scotland, is promoting ways people can avoid accidentally  putting the likes of Puffins, Manx shearwater, and European storm-petrel at risk.

Over the last few centuries, many seabird colonies in the UK have suffered from falls in population or been lost completely because of non-native invasive predators.

Sarah Lawrence, biosecurity officer for West and Central Scotland said it was great to meet boat operators on Mull.

‘It’s clear that everyone’s keen to prevent mink and rats from reaching seabird colonies on the Treshnish Isles and Staffa,’ she said.

But RSPB Mull Officer Dave Sexton said although it is very encouraging that the boat trips are so keen to be part of this effort , private boat owners who land on Lunga also need to be involved.

‘Seabird colonies are so vulnerable and we know mink will happily stow away on boats. Thankfully Mull’s white-tailed eagles are also doing their bit as we find mink in nests as prey items and we know from studies in Finland that they pluck mink out of the water as they’re swimming and can help stop them dispersing to off-shore islands,’ he added.

All boat owners in the area can help – even if they never land on the islands.

Mink and rats can swim at least two kilometres, so boat owners are encouraged not to push any rodents or sleeping mink they discover overboard.

To be able to act quickly against any invasions, a number of  rodent surveillance stations are also being set up and will be checked regularly.

Visit www.biosecurityforlife.org.uk to find out more about the project and downloadable resources.