Species protection: Nature conservation can work
The full implementation of the EU Birds Directive implies the set-up of a general system of protection for all wild bird species naturally occurring in Europe and the application of requisite measures to effectively provide this protection. A study published in 2007 showed that species or populations especially protected by the EU Birds Directive fared better than others – or the same species outside the EU.
The recovery of species populations is a complex and lengthy process that can only be measured over several generations. It is linked to the alleviation of the main pressures driving a species decline, such as the use of certain pesticides or the destruction of suitable habitats, as well as to additional active protection measures, for instance the reduction of disturbance of the species to increase its breeding success.
In recent years, measures tailored for the protection of some bird species and mammals have shown impressive successes. White-tailed eagle, Common crane, Beaver, or Wolf expanding its range again, are examples of spectacular successes thanks to a combination of protective measures for nests and colonies, hunting bans, a decrease of pollution and others. Natura 2000, Species Action Plans and the EU-LIFE programme were instrumental in achieving this.
Simple and cost-effective measures have been shown to deliver significant conservation benefits. This has for instance been the case with the protection of nesting sites of the Lesser Kestrel that are at risk of destruction (e.g. through restoration of buildings) and the creation of artificial breeding opportunities in France and Spain. (Species Conservation works) On the other hand, species that require a more complex conservation approach, like farmland species and long-distant migrants remain among the most threatened groups of birds.
Lead-shot ban in wetlands: long-time due
In many cases, well-known and easily implemented measures that would contribute significantly to the recovery of threatened species have not yet been taken-up on national territories, although they had been endorsed at international level. Direct and indirect lead poisoning remains a potentially significant source of mortality for waterfowl and predators. Recognising this, the EU and its Member States have committed to “endeavour to phase out the use of lead shot for hunting in wetlands as soon as possible in accordance with self-imposed and published timetables” under the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA). Yet in 2011 at least seven EU Member States still failed to legally ban lead shot in wetlands and many more do not properly enforce and control such a ban on the ground. (Lead shot ban and enforcement)
Powerlines: some EU Member States stepping-up to the challenge
A recent review by AEWA shows that within the European region millions of birds; including storks, cranes, waterfowl and raptors; are killed annually as a result of electrocution and collision with electricity transmission and distribution facilities. The number of birds killed can be substantially reduced if mitigation measures are applied during the planning and construction of power lines. The EU committed to take appropriate cost-effective measures to reduce bird mortality from electric transmission facilities in 2004 and several EU Member States have taken action namely through national legislation on planning, technical prescriptions for design, anti-collision measures and facilitating cooperation between companies and nature protection NGOs. (Reducing powerline impact on birds in Hungary) However, in most countries there is still a long way to go.
All killing of birds occurring outside of the legal framework set by the Birds Directive should be treated and sentenced under national criminal law, according to the EU’s Environmental Crime Directive. A BirdLife Europe survey shows that illegal killing and acquisition of birds is still a widespread phenomenon across the EU and is not restricted to the Mediterranean countries. Poisoning, illegal trade and the violation of hunting legislation were found to be the most worrying activities in terms of their conservation impact and occurrence (Illegal killing of birds). In 2011 the EU made a commitment to a “zero-tolerance” approach on the illegal killing
of birds and to a strengthening of enforcement. Targeted, firm and coordinated action on this basis should be initiated by 2014 in order to prove that EU Member States are willing to implement and enforce their international commitments.