National Trust places restrictions on the Farne Islands due to Avian Influenza outbreak

Written by on 23rd February 2023

A ban has been placed on the Farne Islands in Northumberland that restricts visitor access due to fears surrounding Avian Influenza (bird flu).

Nesting colony at the coast of Farne Islands
Image credit – Alamy

The National Trust, who have managed these islands for around 100 years, have brought these restrictions mainly upon the Inner Farne Islands and Staple Islands during early 2023 after the seabird colonies were largely affected last year.

In 2022, over 6000 bird carcasses were removed from the island as a result of the virus, with guillemot and kittiwake species being impacted the most.

Local boat operators are continuing to take tourists around the outer islands, as to not disrupt the land there.

Rachel Shiel, of Billy Shiel’s Boat Trips, said: “It didn’t come as a massive surprise and we are fully supportive of the decision by the National Trust.

“The 2022 outbreak was devastating, so it’s important to act early this year to manage and monitor the return, especially as there are cases of Avian Flu in geese.

“Our boat trips sail around the islands within metres of the birds and seals and include fantastic views of the wildlife without affecting the important work which will be undertaken on the islands.”

Rangers are continuing to closely monitor the nesting habitats and conservation work to improve them will also carry on.

Farne Islands is a group of around 15 to 20 islands and is a National Nature Reserve that holds 23 species of birds, as well as grey seals for visitors to view.

There are four main strains of bird flu that have caused concern in recent years – H5N1, H7N9, H5N6, H5N8 – but most don’t tend to infect humans and are mainly found in birds and poultry.

NHS advises that anyone who has visited somewhere with an Avian Influenza outbreak should:

  • wash your hands often with warm water and soap, especially before and after handling food, in particular raw poultry
  • use different utensils for cooked and raw meat
  • make sure meat is cooked until steaming hot
  • avoid contact with live birds and poultry

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