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Specialists help lift 150 dead birds from Fife beaches weekly during flu crisis

A dead gannet on coast of Fife.
A dead gannet on coast of Fife.

Specialist waste contractors are helping to remove around 150 dead birds from Fife coasts every week as bird flu continues to take a heavy toll.

Staff from Fife Coast and Countryside Trust are working with colleagues from NHS Fife, SSPCA and government agencies in a multi-team approach to managing the problem.

The RSPB has said the latest series of avian flu outbreaks is “unprecedented”. It is the largest ever in the UK.

It seems to be affecting many types of bird, including gannets, terns, guillemots and great skuas.

Fife partnership tackles bird flu crisis

Nigel Kerr is protective services manager at Fife Council.

He said: “We are working closely with partners in Fife Coast and Countryside Trust, NHS Fife, the SSPCA, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), monitoring and advising on the ongoing outbreak of avian flu.

“Once avian flu has been confirmed, there are strict national guidelines we have to follow when dealing with ill or dead birds.

“We’re following all the national guidance and, working with Fife Coast and Countryside Trust, we are lifting and disposing of dead birds when they are reported to us.”

He said it remains important that people don’t try to pick up or touch dead birds.

“Our teams are trained to dispose of birds in a safe way that minimises the risk of spreading this disease.

“Although the risk to our health is very low.”

150 dead birds removed every week

Specialist waste contractors have been helping dispose of the dead birds.

“On average we are disposing of around 150 birds each week. These numbers will vary depending on the tides and winds around the coast.”

Managers at NatureScot announced earlier this month that boat trips to the Isle of May would cease on July 1. That is a further attempt to limit the spread of the disease.

Experts have already warned visitors to some of the Kingdom’s most popular beaches, including Elie, Tentsmuir and Kingsbarns, to avoid dead birds on the sand.

Following the significant numbers of dead seabirds washed up on the shore of Lunan Bay, volunteers from the community group started the safe removal and disposal of the carcasses tonight. The government’s advice was to leave the carcasses in situ to decay naturally. With over 100 birds carcasses washed up on Lunan Bay, many gannets, which are one of the largest UK birds, the charity took the approach to remove the birds to benefit the local community, wildlife and visitors. The deaths have been potentially linked to avian flu. Although the risk to humans and dogs is very low, our volunteers are following a strict hygiene protocol, which include the protective clothing and use of a disinfectant station. All supplied as donations from our charity.

Posted by Lunan Bay Communities Partnership on Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Meanwhile in Angus, volunteers from the Lunan Bay Communities Partnership have donned personal protective equipment.

They are working to remove and bury dead birds from beaches in the county.

For removal of dead birds contact Fife Council on 03451 55 00 22. Fife Coast and Countryside Trust will assess and uplift if required.

If you find a live but ailing bird call SSPCA on 03000 999 999.

Last visitors flock to Isle of May before seabirds go into bird flu lockdown

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