Finns under fire for shooting rare wildfowl

Finnish arguments that it is better to hunt waterfowl in the spring than in the autumn have fallen like water off a duck's back at the European Court of Justice.

Case C-344/03, Commission v Finland

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) recently delivered its opinion in the case of Commission v Finland (Case C-344/03).

The case concerned allegations by the Commission that Finland had failed to fulfil its obligations under the Wild Birds Directive (Directive 79/409/EEC), by failing to apply the derogation laid down in Article 9(1) of the Directive.

Article 9(1) of the Directive permits Member States to derogate from the provisions of Articles 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the Directive where there is no other satisfactory solution, 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.

Complaints were raised against Finland for allowing the spring hunting of birds in both mainland Finland and the Aland islands, in particular eider (Somateria mollissima), golden-eye (Bucephala clangula), red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator), goosander (Mergus merganser), velvet scoter (Melanitta fusca) and tufted duck (Aythya fuligula), for which the criteria relating to there being ‘no other satisfactory solution’ and ‘small numbers’ in order for a derogation to apply, had not been met.

While, the Finnish Government accepted that the requirement that hunting must relate only to the taking of birds in small numbers was not complied with, it tried to argue that despite studies undertaken showing the presence of the various species in autumn as well as spring, for most of the species listed, these were more difficult to hunt in the autumn for a number of reasons and therefore spring hunting should be permitted.

However the Commission argued that the requirement that there be no other satisfactory solution is not fulfilled when the spring hunting of an aquatic bird species may be replace equitably by the hunting of another species during the autumn.

The Court upheld the arguments of the Commission and therefore found Finland to be in breach of its obligations under the Directive.

The full text of the judgement is available here.

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