In 2004 the European Commission published a Guidance Document on ‘Hunting under the Birds Directive’. This aims to provide clear guidance on how Member States should be reflecting the principles laid down in the Directive in their national measures for regulating hunting.
The guidance document, which has since been updated in the light of latest jurisprudence, aims to provide better clarification of the requirements of the Birds Directive relating to hunting, within the existing legal framework and case law. It is based on scientific principles and data and is faithful to the overall aims of the Directive. In particular it looks at the issue of the timing of recreational hunting under the Birds Directive, identifies the possibilities and limitations for flexibility in fixing hunting seasons and addresses the derogation issue.
The guide is supplemented by a second Commission document providing clarification and interpretation of the key concepts of Article 7(4) of the Birds Directive which deals with the period of reproduction and of pre-nuptial migration (return to the breeding areas) for huntable bird species listed on Annex II of the Directive. The need for this information arose from a Court of Justice ruling of 1994 (see ECJ Ruling 435/92) which concluded that the complete protection of huntable species must be guaranteed during these periods.
A review of the best available information on the period of prenuptial migration and reproduction of each huntable species in each Member State where that species occurs was first carried out in 2001 and approved by the ORNIS Committee. This provided a definition for both the ‘period of reproduction’ and ‘return to the breeding areas’. The document has since been updated to integrate data from new Member States and address any gaps in information. Although already comprehensive, it is clear that the data should be further reviewed and updated in the future to take into account the most recent data in all Member States and to remove some discrepancies between Member States.
The "Birds Directive" allows for certain species to be hunted, which are listed in Annex II of the Directive. Since the adoption of the Directive in 1979, regular monitoring reports from BirdLife International are indicating that certain huntable species are considered to have an unfavourable conservation status. The Commission is therefore supporting the preparation of management plans for several species listed in Annex II. These draft framework plans have been extended to EU-25 and define clear management measures. It will be the Member States who will ultimately have responsibility for implementation the plans at national level but this will be made much more feasible with the support of the key stakeholders, including FACE and BirdLife. These plans will need to be regularly monitored and updated in the light of new scientific knowledge.
The European Commission has launched a new ‘EU Cormorant Platform’ website as part of an EU project on the sustainable management of Cormorant Populations (Corman).
A limited number of activities normally prohibited under the Birds Directive (Articles 5-8) are permissible by way of derogations, where particular problems or situations exist or may arise. The possibilities for use of these derogations are limited. They must be justified in relation to the overall objectives of the Directive and comply with the specific conditions for derogations described in Article 9.
Member States do not need to consult the Commission before applying derogations but are obliged to report all derogations to the European Commission in annual derogation reports.