At its last meeting, the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) agreed that it would be useful to remind Contracting Parties of the Ramsar Convention’s existing guidance on Avian Influenza, in light of a recent outbreak. The Standing Committee at its most recent meeting (SC53) endorsed the STRP’s recommendation.
Over the last decade or so, and in particular in recent years, there has been widespread occurrence of cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in Asia, Europe, Africa and North America, both in wild waterbirds and the poultry sector. The management of this disease, in particular the need to reduce the risk of further infections of the poultry sector, is engaging governments throughout these regions.
The Convention has previously developed guidance on appropriate policy and national responses to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza. Whilst this was triggered by the spread of HPAI H5N1 in the mid-2000s, this guidance remains pertinent and valuable:
This guidance is consolidated and summarized in the Ramsar Convention’s Handbook on Avian influenza and wetlands (Handbook No. 4).
In planning policy and practical responses to the likely continued occurrence and spread of this disease, the Contracting Parties concluded “that destruction or substantive modification of wetland habitats with the objective of reducing contact between domesticated and wild birds does not amount to wise use as urged by Article 3.1 of the Convention.”
Furthermore, Contracting Parties also concluded that attempts to eliminate this disease in wild bird populations through lethal responses, such as culling, are not feasible and may exacerbate the problem by causing further dispersion of infected birds. Lethal responses to wild birds are not supported by Ramsar guidance, or by guidance from UN-FAO and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).