Avian Flu and British Seabirds

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Richard Thomas

Jun 9, 2022, 11:49:20 AMJun 9
Given current concerns about the impact of Avian Flu on Atlantic Canada's seabirds, this article indicates that all North Atlantic seabird colonies are at risk. (There's a dead, scavenged Gannet on PCS beach at the moment.)




Jun 9, 2022, 10:19:34 PMJun 9
Briefly, what is going on globally is that poultry and waterfowl are raised in industrial settings (crowding and poor sanitation) that favour the evolution of new avian flu viruses. The viruses escape and are moved about by trade (along road and rail networks) and also by wild migratory birds.

We looked in to this and published a paper a few years ago:
Muzaffar, S.B., Ydenberg, R.C. and I.L. Jones. 2006. Avian influenza: An ecological and evolutionary perspective for waterbird scientists. Waterbirds 29(3): 243-256. (e-mail me if you need the .pdf) A quote from this: "Indeed, one could hardly imagine a better-designed environment for the evolution of high virulence in a pathogen than the current worldwide network of industrial poultry farms." We concluded that this represented a serious risk to wild birds at the species-population level and made recommendations (ignored).

The latest presentation of this is a new highly pathogenic strain of avian flu that appeared in Europe last summer-autumn, and likely due to an extreme weather event (that also brought us Barnacle Geese et c.) was transferred by migratory birds to North America. This highly pathogenic strain is breaking out widely in North America. As Richard has pointed out, seabirds are heavily affected, and unfortunately we may see large die offs in the coming weeks in Newfoundland. This may be quite upsetting. Here again, as for cormorants, migratory birds are being made scapegoats for events brought about by our industrial activities.

Important(!) to mention again: avoid contact with bird carcasses, bear witness and photograph from a distance and report but do not touch.

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