Latest update (5 August 2022)
We are extremely concerned about the current H5N1 strain of avian flu in Scotland and its potential impact on our internationally important seabird populations, as well as other wild bird populations.
Avian influenza is a virus that mainly affects birds. Migratory birds, especially water birds, carry different strains of the virus along their migration routes. Thankfully, the risk to human health from avian flu is very low, but members of the public should avoid touching sick or dead wild birds.
Avian flu is the latest and most devastating indication of how biodiversity loss makes our wildlife increasingly vulnerable. NatureScot, together with expert partners is working at pace to understand and take action that makes bird populations – and our biodiversity - more robust. We are forming a sub-group of our Scientific Advisory Committee to provide further support on surveillance, monitoring and related research that is crucial to helping our wildlife better combat future viruses.
Currently our Noss island national nature reserve remains closed to public landings in response to the avian influenza crisis. Decisions to restrict are not taken lightly, but we are increasingly concerned about the devastating impact avian flu is having in Scotland. In particular, we can give our seabird colonies the best possible chance of survival and recovery by reducing any additional stress and limiting the risk of the virus spreading through contact with visitor clothing and footwear.
We are asking the public to behave responsibly during this unprecedented outbreak and not to take access through seabird colonies for the rest of the breeding season. This approach gives the best chance to limit the spread of the H5NI virus by human activities and give colonies the best possible opportunity of survival and recovery by reducing any additional stress.
For this small seabird island, this means stopping public landings until chicks have fledged. Visitors will still be able to enjoy the summer seabird spectacle by taking boat trips to seabird colonies without coming ashore, or by viewing seabirds from a safe distance without entering nesting areas.
On the 21st of July, we issued advice on avian influenza for managers of seabird islands and other coastal locations where seabirds, geese and other waterfowl gather to nest, feed or roost. The latest release on 5th August shows the Isle of May NNR to re-open as seabirds leave
We have also issued advice to our National Nature Reserve managers and British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to suspend activities in seabird colonies, and we are coordinating surveillance monitoring at key sites and working at speed with the Scottish Government and conservation organisations to develop an effective overall strategy. Central to our role is gaining a crucial understanding of how the virus impacts populations so that we can take measures to reduce its impact.
Members of the public should avoid touching sick or dead wild birds and report any finds directly to Defra on 03459 33 55 77. We would also encourage visitors to coastal areas to keep their dogs on a lead to avoid them touching or picking up dead birds.
For advice on what to do if you suspect there is an outbreak of avian influenza, or if you discover dead or sick wild birds, please see the Scottish Government’s website
Find out more
Scottish Avian Flu - Wild Bird Task Force
Terms of Reference
Purpose: to co-ordinate activity to monitor and minimise the impact of HPAI on wild bird populations in Scotland, taking account of the statement by the CMS Task Force on Avian Influenza.
- Efficient and focused network to allow two-way flow of information, provide an efficient exchange on relevant policy decisions across Scottish Government, ensure effective linkages across administrations and stakeholder organisations.
- Co-ordinate monitoring and surveillance of HPAI impacts on wild bird populations in Scotland, supported by an efficient testing mechanism/network.
- Provide a mechanism to learn from and share approaches with other countries tackling HPAI in wild birds.
- Provide advice to the public and stakeholders on biosecurity and managing interactions with affected and 'at risk' populations.
- Establish research and monitoring required to understand transmission pathways and long-term impacts on populations, including poultry and captive birds.
- Identify mitigation measures to reduce severity of future outbreaks and aid recovery of wild birds.
- Provide coordination for external engagement; specifically, the establishment and servicing of an associated HPAI stakeholder network to ensure efficient and focused two way flow of information and sharing of updated guidance and advice.
- Publication of authoritative advice on issues above
- Co-ordinated communications and agreed key messages
- An action plan, detailing roles, responsibilities and actions in response to future HPAI outbreaks.
- A recovery plan providing guidance on measures to promote wild bird recovery
Responsibilities of members:
To work collaboratively, share information, and seek to achieve common positions and approaches to collectively address Avian Flu in wild birds in Scotland.
- NatureScot (Chair)
- NatureScot (Minutes)
- SG Wildlife Management
- SG Animal Health (Disease Control)
- SG Animal Health (Animal Diseases)
- Marine Scotland (Policy)
- Marine Scotland (Science)
Flexibility will remain to set up sub-groups which may include other organisations. These may include groups considering testing and monitoring and all aspects of carcass removal.
A wider network of stakeholders will be established for wider communication and collaborative work.
The membership and ToR will be reviewed after in October.
27 July 2022
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