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Nature / More bird flu restrictions

Ramna Stacks. Photo © Mike Pennington (cc-by-sa/2.0)

PEOPLE have been advised not to visit 23 Scottish islands – including two in Shetland – to limit the spread of avian flu and give seabirds the best possible chance to survive and recover from the current outbreak.

Although they are not the most accessible, folk have been advised not to land at Ramna Stacks and Gruney until mid-October, which are both in a special protection area off the North Mainland due to their birdlife.

It relates to birds including gannets and storm petrels.

NatureScot has already been closed off the Noss nature reserve to public landings.

The 23 Scottish islands which are now subject to guidance include ones in Orkney and the Western Isles.

The government agency said visitors will “still be able to enjoy the summer seabird spectacle by taking boat trips to seabird colonies without coming ashore, or by viewing seabirds from a safe distance without entering nesting areas”.

“The situation will be under constant review and restrictions will be lifted as soon as possible, once the birds have finished breeding,” it said.

The avian flu outbreak has had a huge impact on seabirds in Shetland, particularly gannets and bonxies.

Eileen Stuart, NatureScot’s deputy director of nature and climate change, added: “Restricting visits to these islands is not an easy decision, but we are increasingly concerned about the devastating impact avian flu is having in Scotland, particularly on our seabird colonies.

“Many of our Scottish islands are a haven for internationally important bird populations. With the avian flu crisis evolving so quickly, we have to respond to reduce the spread of this virulent disease.

“Tragically, this destructive disease could be with us for some time to come. In Scotland, with the new task force announced last week, we and our partners are committed to sharing our expertise and co-ordinating action on the ground.”

Meanwhile protection and surveillance zones imposed in and around Whalsay following a positive avian flu case on the island at the end of May have now been lifted.

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