On Thursday 22 March, Anja Hazekamp MEP (GUE/NGL – Netherlands), Vice-President of the Intergroup, will host a roundtable on spring hunting and other derogations from the EU Birds Directive. The event will welcome Chris Packham, TV-presenter and wildlife expert, Nicholas Barbara from Birdlife Malta, representatives from DG environment as well as Keith Taylor MEP (Greens/EFA, UK), Vice-President of the Intergroup, and Molly Scott Cato MEP (Greens/EFA, UK).

The EU is home to over 500 wild bird species but this diversity is threatened by the fragmentation and reduction of bird habitats, the diminution of their food supplies and their hunting. According to scientific studies, around 43% of Europe’s bird species are threatened or facing serious declines.

As birds cross borders to migrate, they are part of the European shared natural heritage. The European institutions consequently understood the need to establish a comprehensive system for bird protection and adopted the Birds Directive in April 1979.

Updated since then, the Directive provides a common framework for the conservation of wild birds and their habitats throughout the European Union. According to the legislation, Member States must prevent the hunting of migratory species during their period of reproduction or during their return to their rearing grounds. The directive also prohibits the use of tape recorders, nets and traps, which catch birds without distinction of species. All hunting or trapping of wild birds requires a derogation from the Birds Directive.

Each year, however, some EU Member States are opening their spring hunting season as millions of birds travel from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere. They claim that the spring hunting enters in the derogations planned by the Directive due to the small scale of the activity, the fact the nets do not catch birds indiscriminately and their cultural traditions.

In spring, Malta is allowing hunters to target turtle dove and quail, even though turtle doves are classified as vulnerable species by the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The Åland Islands, an autonomous Finnish region made up of hundreds of islands, is also allowing the hunting of a declining species, the eiders, during their breeding time. Likewise, Spain, Austria, Italy and France faced legal challenges over their hunting practices.

The event will address the derogations from the EU Birds Directive and offer a debate on sustainable hunting and the protection of EU birds.



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