The pioneering work of the Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland (RAFTS) in eradicating invasive non-native species (INNS) is being recognised at a London conference today. The “Third Sector GB Invasive Non Native Species and Biosecurity Conference” will explore ways of exporting the experience and knowledge gained by RAFTS and its members in the last few years in order to combat INNS elsewhere in the UK.

A recently published report has estimated that INNS cost the UK economy £1.7 billion per year. Dr Chris Horrill, RAFTS’ Biosecurity Planning Project Officer, said: “INNS are an insidious, massive and growing threat to our native plants, animals and habitats. RAFTS and local fisheries trusts are now taking a lead role in tackling the advance of INNS in Scotland”.

Dr Horrill continued: “RAFTS’ Biosecurity Project has been running in Scotland – with the support and/or guidance of Scottish Natural Heritage, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Scottish Government and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency – for over three years. In this time we have completed 22 biosecurity plans that have stimulated and prioritized action on a local level. As a consequence we are now managing INNS control projects worth over £4 million. We believe that the blueprint and expertise that we have developed to tackle INNS in Scotland can easily be adopted elsewhere and we look forward to sharing our experience with colleagues in other parts of the UK. INNS are our common problem. They pay no heed to national borders – nor should we”.

Callum Sinclair, Director of RAFTS, commented: “Without effective bio-security, the bio-diversity of our native species will be fatally compromised. The challenge is to avoid further damage and work towards restoring habitats to their natural state, in which our native species can thrive, not just in Scotland but throughout the UK.  We are proud that the innovative biosecurity planning work RAFTS started in Scotland only 3 years ago is now being seen as worthy of export elsewhere and are delighted to be working with our sister body the Association of Rivers Trusts and their members and partners to help achieve this. ”.

Arlin Rickard, Director of the Association of Rivers Trusts (ART) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said: “Through sharing knowledge, technical skills and working closely together, Rivers and Fisheries Trusts can offer Government and it Agencies strategic comprehensive coverage, catchment by catchment, across the whole of the UK. Rivers Trusts are focused on delivery and have unique access to rivers through their engagement of river communities and effective partnerships with other third sector groups.”