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Seagulls pictured in Dublin city Sam Boal
Avian Flu

BirdWatch Ireland raises concern over cases of avian flu among wild seabirds

The National Parks and Wildlife Service said that the H5N1 avian flu subtype was currently spreading among seabirds.

CONCERNS ABOUT AVIAN flu have been raised by Birdwatch Ireland, with calls for the Department of Agriculture to do more to tackle the disease spreading among wild seabirds.

Niall Hatch, Head of Communications and Development at BirdWatch Ireland, said that they have been receiving “hundreds of reports” about unwell and dead birds being found across the country.

He said that seabirds, like gannets, had been badly hit over the summer in other European countries by avian flu and that it was expected to arrive in Ireland.

Hatch added that with many breeding seabirds already having left Ireland due to their breeding season being over, other species of seabird have avoided the disease here with gannets being disproportionately impacted due to their longer breeding season.

Last week, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) said the H5N1 subtype of avian flu was currently circulating among wild birds, particularly in breeding seabirds.

“Over the last two weeks in particular, following intensive surveillance by NPWS, and reports from others, large numbers of dead gannets have been detected at breeding colonies, at sea and are now being washed up ashore,” said the NPWS.

“Over the past number of months, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has been undertaking intensive monitoring and surveillance with a nationwide network of regional staff, contractors and other stakeholders collecting information on seabirds from key colonies and elsewhere across the island.

“The situation is being monitored closely and any suspected cases reported to the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine for testing.”

Hatch said that BirdWatch Ireland had also received reports of dead or unwell gulls, razorbills and guillemots alongside gannets.

He called specifically for the Department of Agriculture to send in teams to collect any carcasses of dead birds to avoid spreading the disease among scavenging animals, like foxes.

“We do think that collection is essential at this point,” said Hatch.

The public are being warned to avoid getting into contact with dead or injured seabirds and have asked that any suspected cases of avian flu are reported through the Avian Influenza Hotline on 01 607 2512.

The Journal has contacted the Department of Agriculture for details on avian flu testing, but has not received a response at the time of publication.

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