Sustainable hunting of wild birds in the EU
BirdLife sees the EU Birds Directive as a very good framework to regulate the hunting of birds. The adequate implementation and enforcement of the Directive by Member States and all stakeholders is an essential minimum requirement and important contribution to reach the ultimate aim which is to make hunting of birds a truly sustainable activity across the European Union.
Hunters have an important role to play, not only in ensuring their own activities are sustainable, but also in joining forces with all who work for a better environment rich in wildlife.
The provisions of the EU Birds Directive on hunting
In its articles 7-9 the Birds Directive regulates the hunting of birds.
The bird species that can be hunted in the EU are listed in the Birds Directive’s Annex II. This annex is divided in two parts. AnnexII/1 lists all species that might be hunted in all Member States and Annex II/2 lists species that is possible to hunt in particular Member States. Within these limits each Member State is free to decide which species are huntable in the respective country.
Art.7(4) of the Birds Directive states a number of principles how hunting should be practiced and prohibits any hunting during the period of reproduction (breeding/rearing) and during the return of birds to their breeding grounds (spring migration). These periods are defined for each Member State and each huntable species in the so called “Key Concepts” document issued by the European Commission.
Art.8 prohibits a number of hunting methods, e.g. trapping with nets, which are listed in Annex IV of the Directive.
Art.9 provides the possibility for Member States to derogate from Articles 5-8 for certain reasons and under strictly defined circumstances.
A detailed interpretation of these provisions and reference to case law from the European Court can be found in a Guidance Document produced by the Commission. The document is available in all EU languages at the Commission’s web-page on sustainable hunting.The Sustainable Hunting Initiative and BirdLife’s dialogue with FACE
In 2001, following many years of conflict between conservation and hunting organisations, the European Commission launched the Sustainable Hunting Initiative (SHI) in order to achieve dialogue between stakeholders and eventually to make hunting sustainable across the EU. The initiative is based on a number of proposed steps and objectives, that are to be achieved jointly by EU Institutions, Member State governments and key stakeholders.
As a key element and success of the SHI, in 2004, BirdLife International and FACE (the Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation of the EU) – have concluded a ten-point-agreement (PDF 527KB) on hunting under the EU Birds Directive which was the start of a regular dialogue at EU level, and more and more also at national level. (Read the news story here)
With this agreement both organisations recognize the Birds Directive as an appropriate instrument for the conservation of wild birds and their habitats, including for huntable bird species. Both organisations agreed to cooperate on a number of conservation objectives, such as supporting the Natura 2000 network, reforming agricultural policy and phasing out the use of lead shot in wetlands.
Action for huntable species in unfavourable conservation status
The main principle set in the Birds Directive for hunting of selected bird species is that any use of wild birds must comply with the principle of wise and ecologically balanced use. This goes in particular for those huntable species that are in unfavourable conservation status. As IUCN Red-List authority BirdLife regularly assesses the conservation status of all bird species.
Irrespective of whether hunting is among the reasons for the decline of these species, hunters have a special responsibility and motivation to work with others to bring these populations back to favourable conditions. To this end the European Commission facilitates the preparation of “management plans” for these species, which define actions necessary to reverse negative trends in their populations, including habitat restoration measures or (if necessary) temporary bans on hunting.
Falconry: BirdLife’s view on the use of hybrid falcons
Falconry is a method of hunting recognised by the EU Birds Directive. However, since the development of artificial insemination techniques in the 1970s, it has become common to produce, keep and practice falconry with falcon hybrids, i.e. birds produced by crossing different falcon species. Concerns have arisen in some countries, about the risk of wild falcons breeding with escaped/released hybrid falcons. This is particularly worrying if hybrid Falcons might crossbreed with native wild falcon species like Saker Falcon Falco cherrug classified as Endangered in the IUCN Red List.
In this context, BirdLife adopted a position on ‘Minimising threats from hybrid falcons (originating from captive-bred birds) on wild European falcon populations’ (PDF 186KB) where we ask for a ban on the production and keeping of hybrid falcons in the EU and beyond due to the unacceptably high risk of unnatural genetic introgression to native wild falcon populations in the EU.
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