Invasive Non-Native Species and Biosecurity
This area of the SCA website provides information on a wide range of invasive non-native species, parasites and diseases that paddlers should be aware of. As well as explaining the different species and diseases we also provide advice on a few simple procedures you can carry out whenever you paddle that should greatly reduce your chances of inadvertently spreading these alien species and the problems associated with them.
The basic message from these pages is to avoid transporting water, which may contain some form of living creature or plant material, from one water course to another. The simple act of always draining your boat as you leave the water is the most important biosecurity habit you can get into and could go a long way towards ensuring you make a valuable contribution to protecting Scotland’s rich native biodiversity.
Please see the website for Check Clean Dry. Also, please see the website for Reporting Invasive Non-Native Species that you may come across on your travels.
Each of the three areas of invasive non-native species, parasites and diseases have the potential to cause significant economic problems for the nation as well as adversely impacting upon paddling. When you realise the considerable impact they could have you are far more likely to take them seriously and play your part in avoiding their further spread or import into the country. Consider these figures. It is estimated that invasive non-native species and fish diseases cost the Scottish economy, and therefore us, upwards of £500 million per year and the UK economy £2 - £6 billion per year. That is why we strongly recommend you to study this section of our site.
Invasive non-native species - There are hundreds of non-native species of plants and animals in Scotland and the UK, many of which cause us little or no problem, but there are others that have potentially far reaching consequences for our economy and native wildlife. A small but significant proportion of these non-native species are invasive. Invasive non-native species include freshwater plants such as New Zealand pygmyweed, which if transported to a suitable location could grow so vigorously as to choke the water and make it impossible to paddle in.
Parasites - Some of the species that cause great concern are parasites, and the main one has to be Gyrodactylus salaris, or Gs, which is found in certain European countries, most notable being Norway. Gs is a parasite that lives on salmon and if it were ever to find its way into the UK the economic consequences could be catastrophic. The fishing, whisky, paper and hydro industries would all be greatly affected, and paddling restricted across whole catchments for indefinite periods whilst everything in the river is killed.
Diseases - Biosecurity measures in the countryside also extend to taking precautions against certain diseases, an obvious one being avian influenza or bird flu. An outbreak of bird flu could affect the movement of people and farm products across a wide area and this in turn could affect our ability to go paddling where we choose to.
Advice to Paddlers
- Drain and/or sponge all water from your boat before leaving a paddling site.
- Inspect the inside of your boat for any live creatures. Remember that a young crayfish can be as small as 1 centimetre long.
- Remove any plant or animal material, as well as mud and grit, from boats, paddles and equipment before leaving a paddling site. Avoid returning anything that may be living to the water as this can help some species spread; instead, leave it well above any flooding or high tide level, or dispose of it in a refuse bin. Take particular care not to transport plant or animal material to another paddling site.
- Dry all your gear whenever possible. For example, dry your buoyancy aid and spraydeck as well as your base layers, because drying is a good way of killing anything that might be living in the water that is trapped in your equipment.
- Avoid paddling through aquatic weeds in still or slow moving inland water as some non-native species will benefit from the disturbance and this can lead to canals, rivers and lochs becoming overgrown and impossible to paddle.
- Assume every water body is infested. Drain your boat and inspect your gear every time.
- Report any sightings, if possible taking photographs to aid identification. For marine species, report to MarLIN www.marlin.ac.uk, for wireweed, report to www.snh.org.uk/wireweed, for freshwater species, report to www.bsbi.org.uk.
- Be aware of special requirements when returning from overseas countries (especially Norway) that have rivers infected with Gyrodactylus salaris. Also bear in mind any biosecurity concerns and measures in other countries and follow this advice when travelling outside Scotland.
Gyrodactylus salaris (Gs)
- Habitat: Parasite that lives on salmon in fresh water
- Problem: Once it is present in a river system this parasite quickly devastates the salmon population and extreme methods have to be used to kill everything in the river network, leading to a complete close down of all activities in the river system.
- Risk: Anyone returning from overseas countries where Gs is present could import the parasite on damp and untreated equipment.
British canoeists travelling to Europe should be aware of a serious fish disease that could have severe consequences if it was brought back into the UK. The Scottish Canoe Association is issuing this advice to reduce the likelihood of canoeists unwittingly importing the parasite, Gyrodactylus salaris (Gs) that causes the disease into this country.
Whilst the current concern is connected with Gs, there are other diseases that could have equally devastating effects, so the advice we are issuing represents a range of sensible precautions that should prevent the import of any disease into this country.
Our advice is divided into two strands:
- Precautions to take before travelling back to the UK after canoeing in Europe;
- Action to take if you are going to use your boat or other equipment within a week of leaving the foreign country.
After canoeing in Europe:
- Wash your boat then disinfect it with a chemical disinfectant such as Virkon S or a saline solution. Sachets of Virkon S can be bought from some canoe shops, or a bag of salt can be taken on holiday to easily make a saline solution for disinfecting your boat and other equipment.
Within a week of leaving Europe:
- If you are going to use your boat and/or other equipment within a week of leaving a foreign country it is advisable to dry equipment thoroughly, and where this is not possible to use hot water, disinfectant or salt to kill the parasite. Freezing also kills the parasite.
Items of equipment such as buoyancy aids, spraydecks, throwlines, towlines and sponges should all be considered as potential means of carrying this parasite and be treated in at least one of the above ways.
The area of highest risk is Scandinavia, so paddlers travelling to Norway and Sweden should take particular care. The disease is regarded as a serious threat within Scandinavia and disinfection facilities are available for paddlers and anglers as they move from one river system to another