To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what new initiatives he is preparing to investigate the incidence of disease of cetaceans in British coastal waters.
Relatively little is known about the epidemiology of diseases of wild animals. The experience of the 1988 seal virus has reinforced the need for greater study of this area. I am currently considering proposals for projects to study marine mammal strandings, including small cetacean species, in the coastal waters of England and Wales including tissue sampling, post mortem examinations, analysis of contaminants and other tests as required. I have also placed a contract with the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology of the Natural Environment Research Council to review existing knowledge and assess future needs on wildlife disease generally, including marine mammals.