'Never seen anything like it': Avian flu could halve world's largest gannet colony's population

This video contains distressing images

As Avian Flu is running rampant through seabird colonies, ITV News' Louise Scott has the latest

Thousands of dead seabirds have been washing up on shores across Scotland as bird colonies continue being ravaged by Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).

Bass Island is home to around 150,000 northern gannets, the largest colony in the world, a population that is expected to drop by more than half due to avian flu.

International wildlife experts had judged that the gannets were among the least vulnerable to the flu, but the birds have been washing up on coastlines across Scotland.

This new variant of avian flu which had initially been discovered in poultry, is being tipped as one of the UK's largest ever outbreaks and is now causing a devastating impact on seabirds.

In 30-years of conservation Susan Davies of the Scottish Seabird Centre has "never seen anything like it."

"I drive along the cliff top each morning and each day you see the Bass rock thinning out", she added.

Susan Davies of the Scottish Seabird Centre has "never seen anything like it." Credit: ITV News

Experts are currently unsure why HPAI is spreading so fast in seabirds or if it could potentially spread to other types of wildlife.

RSPCA wildlife centres are no longer accepting sick seabirds due to the risk of them spreading the flu.

The charity announced its rescue centres will no longer take in sea birds, but officers will continue to attend reports of sick and injured birds.

It says bird flu has become a serious problem this summer and there are high levels of morbidity and mortality, particularly in seabirds around the coast.

A spokesman for RSPCA England and Wales said: "Tragically, bird flu continues to spread at an alarming rate, with seabird populations worst affected."

Kelly Russell believes the bird flu could be worse for business than Covid. Credit: ITV News

Tourism in some areas of Scotland have also taken a hit, as entire islands have had to be closed off to the public.

People would normally be able to dock at the Isle of May, on the Firth of Forth, but it too has been closed off.

Kerry Russell of Sula Boat trips on the Isle said: "We are coming off the back of a couple of hard years with Covid, but I would say this has a chance of having a higher impact on our trips.

"We do local trips round our local islands, but it is a bit devastating to see birds we love and rely on for our trips and our wildlife spectacle being impacted upon."

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