The avian influenza prevention zone in Northern Ireland, due to expire tomorrow (31 May) will not be renewed, the Department has confirmed.
The zone required bird keepers in Northern Ireland to put in place enhanced biosecurity measures prior to letting their birds outside, in order to reduce the risk of disease.
The ban on shows and gatherings of poultry, waterfowl and game birds will also be lifted tomorrow and a new general licence will come into force reflecting this change.
The Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO), Robert Huey said: “This will be welcome news for many keepers who have opted to keep their birds indoors to protect them from a seasonally increased risk from highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8. This decision has been made following a recent veterinary risk assessment concluding that the risk of avian influenza incursion to poultry and captive birds in Northern Ireland is low.
“This has been a testing time for all of us, and I would like to thank all bird keepers in Northern Ireland for their co-operation and vigilance. Your positive and committed response has helped us reach this point.”
The CVO added: “It is a relief to see that the risk of HPAI H5N8 in Northern Ireland has reduced, but this does not mean we should be complacent; the risk of avian influenza remains a real and constant threat. It is essential that bird keepers maintain effective biosecurity all year round, not only when a prevention zone is in place. All bird keepers should consider maintaining enhanced biosecurity practices such as washing boots and equipment with approved disinfectant, implementing effective rodent control, minimising unnecessary visitors and reducing their flock’s contact with wild birds.
“I would also strongly urge poultry keepers to reassess their contingency plans, given the new perspective this season’s outbreaks of H5N8 provides. Practical advice about their specific arrangements should be sought from their private veterinary practice, in consultation with their local Divisional Veterinary Office.”
Specific licensing arrangements relating to the importation of poultry and hatching eggs, ornamental fowl, racing pigeons and captive birds from GB remain in place.
Poultry and other bird keepers are reminded that anyone who has any poultry or any other captive birds must be registered with the Department. This will ensure they can be contacted quickly in an avian disease outbreak, enabling them to protect their flock at the earliest opportunity.