Any passengers who have arrived by Lan Chile for the past three weeks will have noticed that they are now required to fill in a quarantine declaration card prior to leaving the airport.
These declaration cards have been introduced in order to help protect the agricultural industry in the Falkland Islands from the importation of unwanted plant or animal diseases.
Seasoned travellers will be aware that such declaration cards have been used in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Chile for several years now. Like the Falkland Islands these countries all have an important agricultural sector and they all enjoy freedom from most of the world's most serious plant and animal diseases.
It is generally considered a much better (and cheaper) option to prevent the entry of a disease at the border rather than have to control or eradicate the disease after it has gained entry.
Quarantine declaration cards form a part of this border security. Diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease can be brought into the Falkland Islands via food items and can then infect animals in the Falklands. This is exactly what happened in the UK in 2001.
Although an animal disease such as Foot and Mouth may not seem relevant to your daily life, the truth is that it affects us all. It is estimated that the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001 cost the British economy £8 billion ? and devastated the farming industry and severely affected the tourism industry. The consequences of a Foot and Mouth outbreak in the Falkland Islands would be equally devastating.
All passengers are required to fill in these declaration cards including returning Falkland Islands residents.
On Lan Chile flights they are normally handed out by the cabin staff at the same time as they are issuing immigration cards ? this might mean that some Falkland Island residents do not receive a quarantine declaration card on the plane. Even if you are not issued with one on the plane you can pick up a declaration card from the immigration desk in the arrival hall.
Once you have cleared Immigration you will be asked to hand your quarantine declaration card to an official who will be standing there specifically for this purpose.
Anyone who has answered yes to any of the questions on the card will be questioned further and any plant or animal products or farm equipment such as shearing gear will be examined more closely.
After examination the products may be let through, removed for further examination or cleaning, or confiscated altogether.
If you are in any doubt about whether you should bring something back to the Falkland Islands from your trip abroad then it is probably best not to do so. If you already have an idea that you would like to bring certain animal or plant products back with you then it would be sensible to check whether this is permitted with the veterinary or plant section of the Department of Agriculture before you leave the Islands.
Initially the quarantine declaration cards are being introduced on the Lan Chile flights only. Once it has been assessed how they are working and whether any changes need to be made to the contents of the card they will eventually be introduced on the RAF flights from Brize Norton.
If anyone would like to know more about the reasons for the introduction of these declaration cards then you can contact me at the Veterinary Service, Andrew Pollard at the Department of Agriculture or Robert King at the Customs Department.(PN)
By Stephen Pointing - Senior Veterinary Officer