On 8 September 2023, the CIC Coordination Forum for Central and Eastern Europe organised a roundtable discussion on African Swine Fever in Osijek, Croatia with the aim of exploring the prevailing state of affairs related to the virus and possible methods of collaboration.
The event was hosted by the Croatian Hunting Federation and was organised within the framework of the 18th SALORI Regional Hunting, Fishing and Tourism Fair.
Among those in attendance were subject matter experts from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia, and Slovenia; representatives from the CIC and the FACE were also present at the event.
The meeting followed on from the discussions at a Coordination Forum Meeting that took place in Bulgaria this past June, where preliminary talks on African Swine Fever (ASF) were held.
To kick off the meeting, participants provided situational analyses on ASF in their respective countries. Broadly, it was agreed that better harmonisation was needed in the monitoring and control of the virus, for which subsequent expert meetings would be beneficial.
In regards to the recent introduction of ASF in new regions, Croatia was noted as such a country having detected the emergence of cases in July. While concerning, it should be noted that Croatia is well placed to tackle this issue, as the University of Zagreb is already a leading member of the ENETWILD project.
ENETWILD is a consortium composed of leading institutions on wildlife ecology and health, where the university is responsible for coordinating countries in southeast Europe. The consortium also runs a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) project which collects information on the geographical distribution, abundance and structure of wildlife species populations relevant for livestock and human health.
In the context of game management, the status of wild boar as a game species was a broader point discussion at the meeting. While wild boar may not be at risk as a species in the long run, its status as a game species will most certainly be impacted in countries and regions inflicted by ASF.
There are suggestions that this may impact small game hunting in the future, a point which requires further data and research going forwards.
At the European level, the prominence of ASF has led to the introduction of compulsory national action plans for wild boar by the European Commission. Countries are now obliged to estimate wild boar populations and describe the management of the species in a hunting context. This will involve providing information on hunting seasons, specific hunting methods and its tools, as well as the general control of wild boar populations.
Perhaps most importantly, hunters are set to play a more significant role managing ASF in an official capacity recognised by the European Commission, which has asked for the creation of communications strategies for hunters, as well as training schemes on preventing the introduction and dissemination of the virus.
Furthermore, joint programmes of cooperation are due to be developed between hunting and agricultural/environmental sectors at the national level. In this regard, it is vital that hunting organisations and associations are involved in the development of these cooperation and national action plans.
While this news from the European Commission is a good first step, the role of hunters – particularly in the search for carcasses and the general early detection of ASF – is something which needs to be better recognised on a wider scale.