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New Biosecurity Facilities in the South West

Biosecurity is a word that has been appearing more and more in the public vernacular recently in the UK, not in the least spurred on by Covid-19 and the many biosecurity practices that we have adopted in its wake.

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In a nutshell, biosecurity simply means preventing a hazardous biological substance entering or leaving an area. In terms of Covid-19, this means hand sanitizer, face masks, and rapid/frequent testing. In the world of boating, however, there is a different kind of biosecurity risk. This risk is invasive non-native species, and they are a major threat to Britain’s ecosystems, economy, and public health. South West Water and South West Lakes Trust have installed a number of biosecurity facilities around their lakes in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, and Somerset, for use by all water users to stop the spread of invasive non-native species.

Invasive non-native species are any species that arrived in the UK after the last ice age, when the land bridge between Britain and Europe flooded and cut it off from the mainland. Any species that were still in Britain at that time are considered native, and form the complex machine that is Britian’s natural ecosystem. Humans have introduced thousands of non-native species since then, either deliberately and accidentally. Of these non-native species, around 10% go on to become invasive, actively spreading throughout nature, competing for resources, and displacing native species. Common introduction “pathways” are garden escapes, hitch-hikers on building materials, ballast water, and on the hulls of boats, canoes, and similar. Aquatic invasive non-native species are a particular threat because once in a water system they are very difficult to manage. In aquatic environments the source population is very difficult to determine, and once present in a water system, the invasive plant or animal can spread very quickly.

The phrase “prevention is better than cure” is a fundamental in invasive species management. It is much easier and more cost effective to prevent the introduction of a new invasive species than to manage one once it is established. This is the guiding principle that has led South West Water and South West Lakes Trust to open a number of biosecurity facilities at their sites throughout Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, and Somerset. These facilities include dip tanks for anglers, boot scrubs for hikers, and most recently a sophisticated wash down for boaters and paddle sports.

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The boating wash-down facility is located at Roadford Lake on the border of Cornwall and Devon, and it is designed to allow water users to spray down their equipment upon entry and exit of the lakeside. This will remove any traces of invasive non-native species from boat exteriors prior to entering the reservoir. Designed and built by Tecker Limited, The wash-down facility collects runoff in a central system, which then filters particles out to 5 nanometres as well as treating it with UV light. This intercepts any invasive non-native species as well cleaning the water well enough to be recycled through the system to minimize wastage. This system is unique, and an upgrade from traditional wash-down systems that generally do not recapture water after it is used. It also includes an air compressor to allow paddle boarders to inflate and deflate their boards more quickly. The whole process of cleaning a boat or canoe takes no more than 10 minutes, typically less than that. South West Water and South West Lakes Trust plan to open more facilities like it at their other sites over the next few years.

Click here to see a video of Naturalist and TV-broadcaster Nick Baker explaining the wash-down at the opening event.

Click here for the ITV news report on the the washdown opening.

Recently, there was a Boating Pathway Action Plan workshop held online, hosted by the environmental consultancy, APEM Ltd, with South West Water and South West Lakes trust to discuss boating and paddling biosecurity practices in the South West... This was attended by representatives of water companies and local environmental groups and agencies such as Devon Wildlife Trust, Exe Estuaries and The Green Blue, as well as paddleboarders, boaters and windsurfers. The outcomes of this workshop will feed into a Pathway Action Plan being developed by APEM for South West Water, which will address pathways of INNS spread in the South West.

It is each of our responsibilities to minimize our impact on the environment. Many people are actively doing this by recycling, reducing plastic waste, and using reducing their carbon footprint more than ever. It is our hope that good biosecurity practices will become just as commonplace in the lives and minds of water-users, and help us in the fight against invasive non-native species in Britain. As part of good biosecurity practice, South West Lakes Trust and South West Water urge all water users to adhere to the check, clean, and dry campaign. This means:

Check – Check your equipment for visible fragments of plant or animal

Clean – your equipment thoroughly after use, ideally with hot water

Dry – your equipment thoroughly, ideally with sunlight

               

For further information visit:

South West Water

https://www.southwestwater.co.uk/

 

South West Lakes Trust

https://www.swlakestrust.org.uk/