HC Deb 08 September 2003 vol 410 cc309-10W
Linda Perham

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps she is taking to tackle the phocine distemper virus in seals in the UK. [1278341]

Mr. Bradshaw

The first case of phocine distemper virus (PDV) was reported at Anholt, Denmark in May 2002. This was the same place that the previous PDV outbreak in 1988 originated. The epizootic reached the east coast of England in August 2002.

Drawing on the lessons learned during the last outbreak, Defra helped voluntary organisations prepare and cope with the PDV outbreak as it hit UK waters. Discussions were held about the disposal and vaccinations options for seal carcases and the resulting guidance notes were published along with other useful information on the dedicated Defra PDV website (http://www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-countryside/ewd/seals/index.htm).

Defra commissioned the Institute of Zoology (Zoological Society of London) to monitor, report and produce information about the progress of the virus. The helpline was funded by Defra and the Devolved Administrations. We worked closely with voluntary organisations and other Government Departments, including The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA), The Institute of Zoology (IOZ), Scottish Executive Environment Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD), National Assembly for Wales Agriculture Department (NAWAD), The Department of Environment (Northern Ireland) (DoE NI), and the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU).

The outbreak was formally declared to be over in the UK at the end of February this year, and was responsible for the deaths of almost 4,000 seals. The Sea Mammal Research Unit continues to monitor seal mortality in UK waters to provide an early warning system for any future outbreaks.

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