Defra has published a risk assessment focussing on the risks of transmission of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) from released gamebirds to wild birds during the summer 2022 period when HPAI was at unprecedented levels in captive and wild birds.
Defra concluded that, theoretically and with a high degree of uncertainty, gamebird releasing could pose a risk to the transmission of HPAI to wild birds. Dr Roger Draycott, Director of Advisory & Gamebird Policy at GWCT commented:
‘Defra has made clear that the assessment was made in August 2022 and the conclusions drawn were made with a high degree of uncertainty and that if HPAI remains a serious issue in 2023 then a new risk assessment will have to be undertaken. We understand from Defra that the current risk assessment did not take into account the period September to December 2022, when, post release of gamebirds, there have been 1) no confirmed cases of pheasants being released that were previously infected with HPAI and 2) no confirmed cases of wild birds being infected with HPAI due to contact with infected gamebirds. In the light of this, we expect future risk assessments to take account of emerging evidence that will enable Defra to produce more accurate assessments with a higher degree of certainty. GWCT, as scientific advisors to Aim to Sustain, looks forward to engaging with Defra to provide reliable data and information from game managers to facilitate this process’.