A new pocket guide aimed at helping members of the public identify invasive non-native species in the waters of the Clyde has been published this week.
The identification guide, created by the Firth of Clyde Forum and Scottish Natural Heritage, means members of the public can take a picture of anything unusual with their mobile phones and send it to a website, where an expert will identify it for them.
It’s part of a programme of guidance to give marine businesses and marine site managers easy-to-follow procedures for creating a biosecurity plan which, it is hoped, will help reduce the threat of moving and introducing new species to their site.
More than 90 marine invasive non-native species have been identified in British and Irish waters, of which 17 are now established in Scotland.
These invasive creatures, which often sound like something out of a science fiction novel, can destroy local species and habitats, affecting the food chain and biodiversity and leading to massive financial costs for fisheries and other leisure and commercial marine operations.
The non-native species can hitch a ride on the hulls of boats or in their ballast water, while some can even survive for several days out of water on damp water-sports gear.
The species pictured above is the carpet sea squirt (Didemnum vexillum), a fast-growing animal which smothers underwater structures, plants and animals and has been found in several sites in the Firth of Clyde.
Sarah Brown, Project Manager of the Firth of Clyde Forum, said:“It’s a continual struggle to keep these invasive species, such as the carpet sea squirt, from spreading in Scottish waters.
“Our seas are important in so many ways for both the environment and economy. So it’s crucial that anyone who gets afloat for fun or whose livelihood relies on the water is aware of the issue and taking action, either by creating and following a biosecurity plan or by reporting any sightings of unusual species.”
The pocket guide, and other information on invasive non-native species, can be downloaded at www.clydeforum.com/projects/invasive-species, while the marine biosecurity guidance can be downloaded in full by clicking here.