The Birds Directive bans activities that directly threaten birds. However, it also recognises hunting as a legitimate activity. While the Directive aims to provide a comprehensive system for the management of hunting, it could not provide clear answers to all the conflicts that arose between hunters and bird protection agencies over what activities were permitted. This led the Commission to launch, in 2001, a Sustainable Hunting Initiative.
In 2004, the Commission published a Guide on Hunting under the Birds Directive. This aimed to improve understanding of how the principles of the Directive should be applied in national hunting regulations. In particular, It examines the importance of controlling the timing of recreational hunting and how hunting seasons can be defined. In February 2008, the Commission updated the document to take account of more recent case law related to the hunting of birds.
The Directive requires that Member States outlaw the hunting of birds during the periods of their greatest vulnerability, such as when they return to nesting areas, reproduce and raise chicks. Interpreting when these times are can be a cause of confrontation and conflict between hunters and environmentalists. Cooperation between these groups is therefore the best way to successfully define the parameters of sustainable hunting. This is where LIFE projects have made important contributions.
An excellent example is a Finnish LIFE project (LIFE05 NAT/FIN/000105) that worked to conserve the lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus), which is a long-distance migratory bird threatened by hunting. The project tracked the birds and provided safe feeding and roosting areas, but the public awareness work was recognised as essential. These awareness raising campaigns were specifically aimed at hunters and landowners, in particular at making them understand how endangered the bird is and how to tell it apart from the greater white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons). Cooperation with hunting organisations included discussions with hunting clubs, training meetings with hunters and articles in hunters’ magazines and manuals. The project covered Finland, Hungary, Estonia, Greece and Norway. For more information, visit the project website or read the project summary.
The sustainable hunting project (LIFE04 TCY/INT/000054) of BirdLife International worked to build capacity for sustainable hunting of migratory birds in Mediterranean countries outside the EU. The project brought together public authorities, hunting organisations and conservation groups to produce reports on migratory bird hunting and conservation, regional guidelines and a code of practice for hunters. The effective partnerships it developed should ensure future collaboration beyond the project. Its demonstrated actions and awareness-raising material, particularly in Tunisia and Lebanon, can also be replicated in other countries. For more information, see the project website or read the project summary.
A full list of LIFE projects tackling the issue of hunting is available as a thematic list on the LIFE website.