Making biosecurity a priority

Stonbury’s biosecurity awareness and rigorous procedures ensure Britain’s habitats are protected from invasive species as teams travel from site to site.

Biosecurity is essential to protect Britain’s native flora and fauna from invasive non-native species (INNS), which can out-compete native species and transmit alien diseases resulting in devastating long-term effects on the local environment. Failure to prevent the spread of INNS from a site where it is known to be present is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).

Stonbury’s activities represent a significant biosecurity risk as they involve movement of equipment and personnel throughout sites in multiple river catchments. The risk is amplified as many programmes involve INNS removal or are situated in areas with known INNS risk.

In response, Stonbury is committed to proactive biosecurity and hygiene measures to minimise the risk of spreading INNS, diseases, and parasites between water bodies. Biosecurity protocols are essential even if INNS are not apparent because many parasites, seeds, eggs, and larvae are invisible to the naked eye and can survive for a long time out of water. Some aquatic INNS can survive for 15 days in damp conditions (for example poorly stored equipment) and up to two days in dry conditions.

Some examples include the plant Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), which can re-grow from a rhizome fragment small enough to inhabit a boot tread; Ranavirus, a highly infectious amphibian disease that can be transmitted by contact with infected water; and the fish topmouth gudgeon (Pseudorasbora parva), which, through damaging local ecology, costs the UK economy £1.8 bn a year.

Stonbury’s procedure ensures staff are familiar with priority non-native species and their potential methods of spread through various communication methods, including framework-specific biosecurity training modules, online resources, ‘Stop the Spread’ posters detailing the Stop-Clean-Dry steps, and toolbox talks from specialists within the business.

The information relayed helps staff on all programmes to develop day-to-day good practice such as mobilising to site with clean equipment, ensuring hygiene materials are always available, and thoroughly cleaning, disinfecting, and drying equipment and PPE upon leaving site or after coming into contact with natural water bodies.

Specific guidelines for working in freshwater or on a site with known INNS are communicated in-person and on video and sets out how to appropriately clean and disinfect nets, buckets, PPE, and machinery as well as the correct disposal methods for cleaning products to ensure protection of the surrounding habitat, as well as future worksites.

Stonbury is proud to take biosecurity seriously and is pleased to help clients stop the spread of harmful organisms to protect and restore our aquatic habitats for current and future generations. Stonbury’s environment team will be raising further awareness at the annual sustainability day at Workman’s Birmingham business park next month and at Farnborough in June.