Bird flu panic: Scottish outbreak declared a ‘national emergency’ – tourists banned from islands | Science | News

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has urgently called for more action to address the current outbreak, which they call a “national emergency”.

RSPB Scotland officer Dave Sexton, who is based on the Isle of Mull, said the outbreak is of great concern and leaves him feeling “helpless”.

He told STV News: “We are getting more and more birds washing up, especially seabirds, and we really need the government to develop a national wild bird response plan.

“It’s not good enough to say we can’t do anything. It feels pretty helpless when there are dead and dying birds around, but there are things we can do.”

WARNING: This article contains images that some may find shocking

Mr Sexton reported that he recently found dead bald eagles in a nest on the Isle of Mull – and although he is awaiting test results for confirmation, he suspects they died as a result of bird flu.

He said: “White-tailed eagles are great scavengers and they will sit in a tree and watch.

“If they see something dead on the coast, like… [a] Gannets, like seagulls, or anything wrestling at sea, that’s an easy meal for them.

“They go in, take the seabirds and bring them back to the nests to feed their chicks.”

Two weeks ago, NatureScot – the government agency formerly known as Scottish National Heritage – advised that visits to 23 small islands in Scotland should be halted until this year’s chicks have fledged.

Islands covered by the ban include those populated by nesting puffins, Arctic skuas and Arctic terns – notably the Calf of Eday, Swona, Muckle Skerry, Craigleith, Inchmickery and the Isle of May – where the ban will be in effect at the end of August.

Landings on Noss, Glas Eileanan, Lamb and Fidra are meanwhile prohibited until mid-September because of great skuas, common terns, cormorants and petrels.

The longest ban runs until mid-October and is intended to protect breeding gannets, storm petrels and Manx shearwaters.

This includes Ramna Stacks and Gruney in the Shetlands, Priest Island, Treshnish Island, Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth and several islands in the Outer Hebrides including the Flannan Islands and parts of the St Kilda archipelago.

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Paul Mackinnon works for Staff Tours, a seabird company that organizes daily trips to both the Treshnish Islands and neighboring Staffa.

In line with the tourist ban, the company now no longer allows tourists to set foot on the Treshnish Islands, where there have been no confirmed cases of bird flu to date.

Mr Kinnon told STV News he was concerned about the next breeding season, saying: “A big highlight of the trip is getting ashore on the Treshnish Isles to spend a few hours with the puffins so it would be a big concern to move forward.

“Another big problem is the decline in the number of birds we see.

“We hope it will be a one off and we can go ashore on the Treshnish Isles again in April next year as it will be a great loss if people can’t get out and see the beautiful birds.”

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While the virus’s risk to human health is considered very low, to limit the spread, the public has been urged to stay away from birds they watch die — as well as to keep dogs away from them. to keep.

A Scottish government spokesman told STV News it is “taking the situation very seriously and is working with partner organizations to monitor and respond.”

The authorities, they added, “recognize the importance of communication and coordination in preparedness and response.

“The newly established Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) Task Force established by NatureScot will coordinate activities to monitor and respond to the current HPAI outbreak affecting wild bird populations in Scotland.”

NatureScot’s deputy director Eileen Stuart told BBC News: “Limiting visits to these islands is not an easy decision, but we are increasingly concerned about the devastating impact bird flu is having in Scotland, particularly on our seabird colonies. .

“Many of our Scottish islands are refuges for internationally important bird populations.

“With the bird flu crisis evolving so rapidly, we must respond to reduce the spread of this virulent disease.

“Tragically, this destructive disease could be with us for a while yet.”

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