|Bird trapping on farmland in Cyprus
An effective instrument in the battle against bird trapping in Cyprus is about to be lost from EU farming regulations. Since 2009, Cyprus authorities have been penalising farmers who have trapping equipment on their plots by cutting part of the subsidies they receive through the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The penalties are enforced under relevant “cross compliance” provisions banning the deliberate killing of birds. They are an important additional tool in the effort to halt rampant bird killing on the East Mediterranean Island. But the relevant provision is set to be “axed” under current CAP reform proposals, which is good news for bird trappers and bad news for migrant birds.
For over a decade now, BirdLife Cyprus has been campaigning against illegal use of invisible mist nest and sticky lime sticks to catch mostly migrant birds. The indiscriminate nature of the traps means many species of conservation concern fall foul to the trappers. But the lucrative nature of the trapping (the birds are served up as expensive ambelopoulia delicacies in local tavernas) means the practice is very hard to stamp out, and has indeed been on the rise in recent years. Much of the bird killing takes place in fruit tree orchards or in hedgerows on field boundaries.
With a hard-to-crack conservation problem like this, you need every “weapon” you can get, and BirdLife Cyprus had to push hard to persuade the local authorities to penalise farmers under cross compliance whenever trapping equipment was found on their plots. The reaction from the main trapping areas as these penalties began to “bite” suggested this measure was having some effect. But as part of the reform of the CAP (2014-2020) the bird protection provisions under cross compliance are proposed for deletion, in a drive for “simplification”. Under threat are key provisions of the Birds (2009/147/EC) and Habitats (92/43/EEC) Directives included in the so called cross compliance Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs). Of course, even if these articles are removed, farmers will still be under a general obligation to comply with the above provisions of the nature Directives. However, and crucially, the deterrent value of financial penalties for failure to comply will disappear, and relevant checks will no longer be carried out at Member State level.
BirdLife Europe is working hard to try to influence this process so that basic protection of not just birds but also of plants and habitats are not lost from cross compliance requirements for Europe’s farmers. Cross compliance should be fine-tuned so that is provides a sound and robust environmental baseline for all farming under the new CAP. It should not be reduced to green “window dressing”.
Martin Hellicar, martin.hellicar(at)birdlifecyprus.org.cy