Developments over the last week have seen the avian flu virus steadily increasing and moving southwards in England, further outbreaks have also occurred along the continental coastline.
The ABO have been carefully monitoring the situation and thus far cancelled all scheduled visits to the colonies of seabirds on Alderneys Islets in the hope that the numbers of cases in this outbreak nationally decrease, sadly quite the opposite has been the case.
The Channel Islands Bird Ringing Scheme (CIBRS) committee have agreed that with immediate effect that all CIBRS licence holders must not visit seabird colonies or ring any seabirds until further notice.
The virus is easily and quickly spread via birds’ faeces so walking through any seabird colony, especially concentrated colonies like Gannets would spread the virus putting birds at unnecessary risk. There are also potentially serious public health implications. To go ahead with seabird ringing research work in the current circumstances would certainly attract negative attention and rightly so, THERE ARE NO LOCAL CASES to date but should there be an outbreak of avian flu this action will ensure we avoid any scrutiny, prioritising the welfare of the birds and public safety.
I’m sure you would all agree that the only responsible option is to cease all seabird ringing activities until further notice.
Whilst not entirely unexpected this news is of course very disappointing, especially for all of the UK and Channel Islands ringers booked to join us on our various seabird ringing programs this summer, a good deal of valuable data will be lost this year.
We will keep you updated if/when the situation changes.
John Horton
Warden, ABO.