In this blog, Biosecurity Officer, Holly Paget-Brown shares the role Biosecurity Officers play in getting Rapid Incursion Response Hubs set up. The project collaborated with an existing hub team, on the Isles of Scilly, and have now set up a further six hubs around the UK.

What are Rapid Incursion Response Hubs and why are they needed?

Incursion Rapid Response Hubs are a vital part of biosecurity and a last line of defence against invasives.  

  • An Incursion is when an invasive non-native mammalian predator has recently spread to an island but has not yet established a population.
  • An Incursion Response is the planned actions taken when it is thought an invasive predator has reached an island.​
  • And an Incursion Response Hub is the space where all the equipment required for an incursion response is kept.​

It is important that they are close to the islands it is covering, are accessible at any time, have longevity for the long term, and contain everything one might need for an incursion so that it’s available at short notice.

Typically, they will contain surveillance equipment, traps and rodenticide, safety equipment, bait tunnels, field gear, camping equipment, and important documents like biosecurity plans and risk assessments. 

Hub Shelving

What needed to be done?

As Biosecurity Officer for Shetland and Orkney it was my responsibility to set up the hubs in both of these locations. I set about finding sites that were close to all the islands (quite hard in a large archipelago!), large enough to house all the equipment, and that we would be able to use for the long term. This is where working with project partners was helpful with the RSPB offering up some of their existing space. 

Bait tunnel making with the Biosecurity Team Photo credit Tessa Coldale

To ensure the spaces were big enough, I put together a list of the required equipment by looking at the best practice documents and inventories of other existing hubs such as that on the Isles of Scilly (which I had conveniently helped to stock previously!). I then tried to source things locally where possible and conscientiously elsewhere.

Getting all of this equipment together was quite time consuming, particularly cutting the bait tunnels of which we require 450 for each hub (and are made from drain pipe). It really highlighted how difficult it would be to get all of this ready were you trying to do so in a hurry with an active incursion, and how valuable the hubs would be. Now both hubs are stocked and ready to go.

A call was put out on Shetland to ask local people to join the volunteer team to help with surveillance and mammal capture, should an incursion be reported. The Shetland community responded at once, with a small team now established and finishing their training.

The UK is now response ready

Shetland and Orkney Rapid Incursion Response Hubs join a network of seven hubs across the country. It has taken the project team over 200 days to organise and produce this network. But it has been worth it - the Hubs are now ready to help conservationists and islanders to respond swiftly to incursions and play a vital role in protecting our native seabirds.

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