Seabird deaths rise due to Shetland bird flu outbreak


HONG Kong has suspended the import of poultry from the UK following the latest aftermath of an outbreak of bird flu in the Shetland Islands.

Restrictions were first put in place in Shetland last week after the outbreak was first detected among commercial stocks, with the Shetland Islands Council sending officers to the island of Whalsay to put in place implementation of control measures, including a 3 km protection zone and a 10 km surveillance zone.

Based on the advice of Scotland’s Chief Veterinarian, Scottish Ministers on May 30 confirmed the existence of “highly pathogenic” bird flu in Whalsay, declaring a temporary control zone which would remain in effect until whether modified or revoked.

READ MORE: New Orkney protection sites for Scotland’s vulnerable seabirds

According to official statistics, Hong Kong imported around 420 tonnes of chilled and frozen poultry meat and 90,000 poultry eggs from the UK in the first three months of 2022.

Commenting, a Hong Kong spokesperson Center for Food Security (CFS) said: “CFS has contacted the UK authorities about this and will closely follow information published by the OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) and relevant authorities on outbreaks of avian flu. Appropriate measures will be taken in response to the evolving situation. »

The outbreak has also raised concerns about the impact it could have on the region’s wild bird population, as bird flu spreads through the tens of thousands of birds arriving at breeding colonies. neighbors in spring and summer.

Around 1,000 dead gannets have so far been recorded, while hundreds of large skuas – locally known as bonxie – have also been found dead or dying.

This follows numerous wild bird deaths during a possible bird flu outbreak at Loch Fleet in Sutherland last month.

Helen Moncrieff, from RSPB Scotland, highlighted the area’s importance for seabirds, commenting last week: “We need to keep an eye on what is happening to limit the spread.”

Despite the risk to the bird population, public health advice indicates that the risk to human health from avian flu is very low.


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