WWF has Italian hunters in its sights

The Lombard region of Italy has been warned it must do more to ensure hunters are not taking too many birds following a case brought by WWF Italia.

Reference for a preliminary ruling (Case C-60/05)

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued a judgement on 8 June 2006, in the case of WWF Italia and others v Regione Lombardia (Case C-60/05) concerning implementation of the Wild Birds Directive (Directive 79/409/EEC).

The case arose following a preliminary ruling having been made to the ECJ from the Tribunale amministrativo regionale per la Lombardia (Italy) concerning the interpretation of Article 9 of the Wild Birds Directive.

In particular, the case concerned interpretation of Article 9(1)(c) of the Directive, which allows Member State to derogate from the provisions of Articles 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the Directive, in order to permit, under strictly supervised conditions and on a selective basis, the capture, keeping or other judicious use of certain birds in small numbers.

Four questions were put to the ECJ in the reference from the national Italian court concerning Article 9(1)(c).

In the ruling of the ECJ, it was held that Article 9(1)(c) of the Wild Birds Directive requires Member States to ensure, in all cases of application of the derogation and for all the protected species, that authorised hunting does not exceed a ceiling consistent with the restriction on hunting to small numbers imposed by that provision, and that ceiling must be determined on the basis of strict scientific data.

The national implementing provisions concerning the 'small numbers' must enable the authorities responsible for authorising hunting derogations in respect of birds of a given species to rely on criteria which are sufficiently precise as to the quantitative ceilings to be complied with.

Upon implementation of Article 9(1)(c) of the Wild Birds Directive, the Member States are also required to ensure that, irrespective of the number and identity of the authorities within their territory responsible for applying that provision, the amount of authorised hunting derogations in respect of each protected species by each of those authorities does not exceed the ceiling compatible with the restriction on that hunting to 'small numbers', fixed for that species for the entire national territory.

Finally, it was held that the obligation on the Member States to ensure that hunting of birds is carried out only in 'small numbers', in accordance with Article 9(1)(c) of the Wild Birds Directive, requires that the administrative procedures provided for are organised in such a way that both the decisions of the competent authorities authorising hunting derogations and the manner in which those decisions are applied are subject to effective control exercised in a timely manner.

The full judgement of the ECJ is available at the following link.

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