Council comes under pressure to clear up dead seabirds

Dead birds, like these at Tayinloan, are causing concern to beach-goers.
Dead birds, like these at Tayinloan, are causing concern to beach-goers.

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Argyll and Bute Council is coming under renewed pressure to clear Kintyre’s beaches of the carcasses of hundreds of seabirds suspected of dying of bird flu.

But the authority insists the responsibility lies with landowners and says it is not ‘in a position’ to carry out clear-up operations despite reports of at least two other councils doing so.

It comes after confirmed cases of avian influenza on Islay and Arran.

In last week’s Campbeltown Courier, it was reported that South Kintyre councillor Donald Kelly was urging the council to organise a bird-removal programme, a sentiment echoed by Kintyre resident Iain Logan, who discovered dozens of dead guillemots on the shore near his house, about a mile north of Tayinloan.

In an email to Argyll and Bute Council’s chief executive, Mr Logan claims he was given differing information on whose responsibility it is to collect the dead birds from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), to which he reported the dead birds, and council receptionists.

Mr Logan included in his correspondence a link to a national newspaper article which reported that South Ayrshire Council and North Ayrshire Council were working to clean up beaches of infected animals.

Mr Logan wrote: ‘Other councils are accepting their responsibilities, so why isn’t yours?

‘By not acting promptly, the council is helping to spread this deadly disease and causing upset to visitors, including their children, to our beaches.’

An Argyll and Bute Council spokesperson said: ‘DEFRA is responsible for the sampling and analysis of dead birds and, to date, we have not received any confirmation of bird flu in Kintyre.

‘Whilst it is upsetting to see so many bird carcasses on our shores, Scotland’s councils are not responsible for removing them, nor are we in a position to do so.

‘We appreciate that some landowners may decide to carry out clean-up operations and encourage them to do so safety, in accordance with DEFRA guidance on safe handling and disposal.

‘Our focus remains on promoting DEFRA guidance to as many people as possible via social media and digital channels.’

A DEFRA spokesperson told the Courier that where dead birds are not required for surveillance purposes, it is the landowner’s responsibility to safely dispose of the carcasses as animal by-products; on public land, this is the local authority’s responsibility.

The council has issued the following advice:

  • Do not pick up or touch sick, dying or dead birds, and keep pets away from them.
  • If you find three dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks), a single dead bird of prey, or five or more dead wild birds of any other species at the same place at the same time, you should report them to DEFRA’s national helpline on 03459 33 55 77.
  • Following this, where dead wild birds are not required for surveillance purposes, it is the landowner’s responsibility to safely dispose of the carcasses.
  • Bird keepers should follow good biosecurity measures at premises where poultry are kept.