An interdisciplinary research initiative about law and biodiversity conservation

When is it legal to hunt strictly protected species in the European Union

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New paper in Conservation Science and Practice:

Epstein, Y., Christiernsson, A., López-Bao, J.-V. & Chapron, G. (2019). When is it legal to hunt strictly protected species in the European Union? Conservation Science and Practice 1:e18.

In the European Union (EU), the Habitats Directive bans the killing of strictly protected animal species. The killing of individual animals may nevertheless be allowed when there is no satisfactory alternative and doing so would not be detrimental to the maintenance of species populations at favorable conservation status for one of five enumerated reasons. This exception has been used by national authorities to allow hunting, frequently triggering litigation. Here, we review several contested aspects of the provisions allowing exceptions from strict protection, particularly those in the controversial Article 16(1)(e), in order to clarify Member States’ discretion in allowing hunting. Correctly interpreting these provisions is necessary to ensure species are protected at the level intended by the Habitats Directive, and that their conservation status is improved or maintained. Our review suggests that it would be very difficult for national authorities to allow the hunting of strictly protected species while complying with EU law.

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