Avian flu confirmed in Bass Rock gannet colony

Susan Davies, CEO of the Scottish Seabird Centre said:

“Avian flu has been confirmed by testing in several gannets that were found dead along the East Lothian coastline – stretching from Portobello to Dunbar. These birds are from the world’s largest northern gannet colony on the Bass Rock in East Lothian which is widely recognised as an amazing wildlife spectacle.

Each day the story unfolds further on the island. Patches within the colony, which would have been packed tightly with noisy and boisterous gannets sharing the responsibility of protecting their precious eggs and feeding young chicks (gugas), are becoming more sparsely occupied as each day passes.

We feel powerless. We can only watch and monitor the passage of the disease as it spreads through the colony. We need resources to undertake survey work – including by drone – in the coming weeks. This will enable us to get a better handle on the scale of impact and to better monitor the recovery of the colony in years to come.

This story is far from over. It is only with time that we will know the full extent of the impact of avian flu on these spectacular birds and other seabird colonies.

This is not just about avian flu on the Bass Rock it is about the health and protection of seabird colonies across Scotland, which face multiple pressures not least from climate change, invasive species, pollution and over-fishing. The need for a Seabird Conservation Strategy and action plan for Scotland has never been more needed, and we urge Scottish Government to make rapid progress with this.”

The Scottish Seabird Centre has now suspended all its specialist photography landing trips on the Bass Rock for the foreseeable future, to avoid disturbance within the heart of the colony and to minimise the biosecurity risks of spreading the disease. The popular wildlife boat experiences around the islands and to the Isle of May will continue. Visitors will still be delighted with the variety of seabirds breeding on the local islands and we will also help them to understand more about the pressures our seabirds face and the steps required to protect and manage seabird colonies.

Members of the public are remined that if they spot any dead or injured birds they should:

Please see the public health advice from East Lothian Council with a question and answer section for any concerns the public may have. The site can be accessed HERE.

ENDS

Release updated June 15 2022

For further press information contact: Jess Thompson, Marketing Manager, email marketing@seabird.org, tel: +44(0)1620 890202. Please email info@seabird.org for requests between June 24 and July 6.