Wishart responds to establishment of Scottish bird flu taskforce


Scottish Liberal Democrat and Shetland MSP, Beatrice Wishart has welcomed the creation of a taskforce to respond to the bird flu crisis. The taskforce is to be led by NatureScot.

Wishart previously raised written questions of the Scottish Government asking about plans to respond to the outbreak.

On the establishment of the taskforce Ms Wishart said:

“I am pleased at the announcement of a coordinated response led by NatureScot to see us through this crisis.

“The RSPB have been in contact with me since the outbreak occurred and I very much share their concerns about the risk of devastating consequences for our wild bird populations.

“The Scottish Government should have acted more swiftly, but I am encouraged that with NatureScot now leading the response we will see shared expertise try and address the evolving situation.”

 

ENDS

 

Notes to Editors

You can view Ms Wishart’s written Parliamentary questions here.

Beatrice Wishart (Shetland Islands) (Scottish Liberal Democrats):
To ask the Scottish Government whether it plans to develop an HPAI (highly pathogenic avian influenza) in wild birds response plan in Scotland, as recommended by the UN-convened Scientific Task Force on Avian Influenza and Wild Birds.

S6W-09203

Mairi Gougeon:
The 2021-22 season has seen the UK’s largest outbreak of avian influenza to date, which has affected commercial flocks of poultry and other captive birds as well as wild birds. While maintaining high levels of biosecurity among domestic flocks helps protect against disease, addressing the disease among wild birds can pose significant challenges.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) carries out year-round avian influenza surveillance of dead wild birds reported to Defra’s GB national helpline. As of 24 June 2022, 490 wild birds from multiple locations across Scotland, consisting of 24 species, have tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1. Findings of HPAI in wild birds are published weekly by APHA and are available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/avian-influenza-in-wild-birds

The Scottish Government continues to work closely with a range of partner organisations to monitor and respond to the situation where action can be taken, recognising the importance of communication and coordination in preparedness and responses.

We continually review our response planning to current and future avian influenza outbreaks based on the latest scientific advice and existing disease control measures. This includes quantifying the impacts of such outbreaks on our wild bird populations, including seabirds. We will also be identifying with partner organisations what else can be done to respond to the outbreak and improve resilience of our internationally important seabird populations.

---

Beatrice Wishart (Shetland Islands) (Scottish Liberal Democrats):
To ask the Scottish Government what action it will take to address the impacts of avian influenza in wild seabird populations in (a) general and (b) relation to the bonxie, or great skua, in light of 60% of the species' global population being understood to breed in Scotland.

S6W-09204

Mairi Gougeon:
The 2021-22 season has seen the UK’s largest outbreak of avian influenza to date, which has affected commercial flocks of poultry and other captive birds as well as wild birds. While maintaining high levels of biosecurity among domestic flocks helps protect against disease, addressing the disease among wild birds, including our internationally important seabird colonies, can pose significant challenges.

The Scottish Government continues to work closely with a range of partner organisations to monitor and respond to the situation where action can be taken, recognising the importance of communication and coordination in preparedness and responses.

Avian influenza is a highly infectious disease, and while there is little that can be done to limit the spread within seabird colonies, action can be taken to reduce the risk of onward transmission from infected colonies to other locations, and to minimise additional stress on potentially infected birds. To that end, NatureScot has suspended all ringing research activities within seabird colonies for the remainder of the breeding season to mitigate these risks. Surveys of some seabird colonies are also ongoing to monitor bird numbers, and any mortality events.

Furthermore, the Scottish Government has published advice for local authorities, landowners, wildlife rescue centres and members of the public regarding reporting, collection and safe disposal of dead wild birds. We will keep our guidance under continuous review as the situation develops.

It is too soon to determine with any certainty the impact of the current outbreak on seabird populations. NatureScot, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, RSPB Scotland and BTO Scotland are working towards collating colony level data and identifying how these data can be analysed to offer information on population level impacts. However, some internationally important seabird colonies have clearly been affected by the current outbreak. Therefore, the developing Scottish Seabird Conservation Strategy is critical in ensuring that any actions identified are timely and effective to help optimise the conservation prospects of seabirds in Scotland from existing and emerging threats, including disease threats such as avian influenza.

---

Beatrice Wishart (Shetland Islands) (Scottish Liberal Democrats):
To ask the Scottish Government, in light of the reported significant and ongoing impacts of HPAI (highly pathogenic avian influenza) on Scotland’s wild birds in the last eight months, what plans it has to ensure that the relevant preparations and arrangements are in place to ensure an effective response to the current and any future outbreaks.

S6W-09205

Mairi Gougeon:
The UK is currently experiencing the largest outbreak of avian influenza with commercial flocks of poultry and other captive birds, as well as wild birds, affected.

The disease control response to the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak is coordinated across the four UK administrations, with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) leading on triage, and testing and monitoring the spread in the UK. Dead wild bird findings (suspected of HPAI) in Scotland, England and Wales are reported to Defra’s national GB helpline. This information is then given to relevant teams in APHA to triage the collection of samples for testing, where required. The Scottish Government continues to work closely with the other UK administrations (Defra (England), the Welsh Government and DAERA (NI)) on the disease control response.

The Scottish Government is also working with a range of partner organisations to monitor and respond to the current situation where action can be taken, recognising the importance of communication and coordination in preparedness and responses.

We continually review our response planning to current and future avian influenza outbreaks based on the latest scientific advice and existing disease control measures. This includes quantifying the impacts of such outbreaks on our wild bird populations, including seabirds. We will also be identifying with partner organisations what else can be done to respond to the outbreak and improve resilience of our internationally important seabird populations.

---

Beatrice Wishart (Shetland Islands) (Scottish Liberal Democrats):
To ask the Scottish Government whether it will ensure that (a) improved surveillance, testing and carcass collection is set up and (b) disturbance minimisation and biosecurity measures are put in place in preparation for the current and future outbreaks of HPAI (highly pathogenic avian influenza) in wild birds.

S6W-09206

Mairi Gougeon:
The disease control response to the avian influenza outbreak is being coordinated across the four administrations, with the Animal and Plant Health Agency leading on surveillance, triage and testing in the UK. Wild bird findings (suspected of HPAI) in Scotland, England and Wales are reported to Defra’s national hotline. This information is then given to relevant teams to triage the collection of samples for testing, where required. This is an evolving situation with the species identified for collection and testing under constant review and adjusted according to surveillance needs.

As of 24 June 2022, 490 wild birds from multiple locations across Scotland, consisting of 24 species, have tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1. More information, including the findings of HPAI in wild birds are available at: https://www.gov.scot/publications/avian-influenza-outbreaks/#wildbirds

Avian influenza is spread mainly through live birds, and current veterinary advice is that wild bird carcases should be left in situ, unless landowners consider it necessary to remove them. The Scottish Government has published advice for local authorities, landowners, wildlife rescue centres and members of the public regarding reporting, collection and safe disposal of dead wild birds. We will keep our guidance under continuous review as the situation develops.

Avian influenza is a highly infectious disease, and while there is little that can be done to limit the spread within seabird colonies, action can be taken to reduce the risk of onward transmission from infected colonies to uninfected colonies and other locations, and to minimise additional stress on potentially infected birds. To that end, NatureScot has suspended all ringing activities within seabird colonies for the remainder of the breeding season to mitigate these risks. Surveys of some seabird colonies are also ongoing to monitor bird numbers, and any mortality events.

Moving forward, we are in contact with the other UK administrations and statutory nature conservation bodies with regard to the response plan for future disease outbreaks. Although the immediate response is to the spread of the disease, there is a need to look ahead at how we can quantify the impacts and what else can be done to improve resilience within the colonies.


Share this post on social media:

Sign in with Facebook, Twitter or Email.