Annual Biosecurity Review and Release of the 2018-19 Biosecurity Handbook

(31/07/2018)

The Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) today releases the results of its annual biosecurity review.

Ensuring South Georgia’s biodiversity is protected from invasive species is every visitor’s responsibility, from Government employee to tourist; and remains a strategic priority for GSGSSI. We remain constantly alert to new biosecurity threats and ensure our policies remain up to date and reflect best practice standards. In order to achieve this, each year we undertake an annual review of biosecurity.

Between June 2017 and May 2018, 274 biosecurity checks on cargo and baggage were undertaken by Government staff at King Edward Point. Of the 1250 items that were individually inspected during these checks, biosecurity risks were detected on just 6 or ½ a percent. Of those 6 failures, only 3 were live organisms, with the other 3 being dead invertebrates. This represents an increased inspection effort, and decreased ‘failure’ rate than last year.

Government staff also made an unprecedented effort to check cruise ship passenger’s boots, clothes and bags for biosecurity risks. Of over 10,000 passengers more than half were checked. 7% of passengers had some soil or organic material on their footwear, and 4% had soil or organic material on their clothing or bags. In all cases, extra cleaning and remedial action was undertaken before going ashore.

In May, the South Georgia Heritage Trust declared the Island rodent-free following the successful and ambitious rodent eradication project. To maintain this legacy, and keep South Georgia rodent-free, the GSGSSI worked with Working Dogs for Conservation to undertake a trial using biosecurity rodent detector dogs to ensure South Georgia-bound vessels were free from rodents. The trial was a great success, and we are exploring options to collaborate with partners to turn the trial into a long term biosecurity detector dog programme.

A new dedicated biosecurity facility for Bird Island was completed as part of the redevelopment of the research station by the British Antarctic Survey. This will further enhance the efficacy of biosecurity inspections at Bird Island, and help to maintain its pristine environment from future threats of non-native species.

On the horizon are our plans to build a new biosecurity facility. This will increase capacity over our existing facility at King Edward Point enabling secure cargo handling and inspections for biosecurity risk organisms such as invertebrates, soil, seeds and rodents.

A biosecurity audit conducted by the GB Non-Native Species Secretariat recognised the high standards of biosecurity on South Georgia and helped identify areas where we can work with stakeholders to further enhance the protection of South Georgia’s biodiversity. The full report is available here.

The 2018-19 Biosecurity Handbook, which contains details of GSGSSI’s current biosecurity policies, can be downloaded here.