In a decision that could have a bearing on Cyprus, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on Wednesday that the fact that limesticks were supposedly a traditional method of hunting birds in France, was not sufficient in itself to permit the particular method.
The Luxembourg-based court was responding to questions referred to it by France’s Council of State, relating to the interpretation of the European Birds Directive.
The limestick method of capturing birds is also used in Cyprus by poachers. It has been outlawed, along with mist nets, because of its indiscriminate nature.
The issue emerged after France’s One Voice and the League for the Protection of Birds who oppose the use of limes for capturing birds, challenged legislation authorising use of the method in certain regions.
The two associations alleged infringement of provisions of the Birds Directive and, in particular, Article 9 thereof, which lays down the requirements and conditions under, which the authorities may derogate from the prohibition of hunting using limes, which is laid down in Article 8 and in point (a) of Annex IV to that directive.
The European court ruled that the fact that a method of capture of birds, such as the method of hunting using limes, is traditional, is not, in itself, sufficient to establish that another satisfactory solution cannot be used instead.
The court also noted “that, although traditional methods of hunting may constitute ‘judicious use’ authorised by the Birds Directive, the preservation of traditional activities cannot, however, constitute an autonomous derogation from the system of protection established by that directive.”
The Court of Justice further stressed that the Birds Directive must be interpreted as precluding national legislation which authorises, by way of derogation a method of capture leading to by-catch where that by-catch, even in small quantities and for a limited period, is likely to cause harm other than negligible harm to the non-target species captured.
It said member states may derogate from the prohibition of certain methods of hunting, provided those methods permit the capture of certain birds on a selective basis.
In that regard, it states that, for the purpose of assessing the selectivity of a method, it is necessary to consider not only the details of that method and the size of the catch that it entails for the non-target birds, but also its possible consequences for the species captured in terms of the harm caused to the birds captured.
Legalisation of limesticks on the basis of tradition has come up several times in Cyprus, backed by politicians whose constituents engage in the unlawful practice to catch songbirds and sell them as the expensive local delicacy, ambelopoulia.
The decision was welcomed by BirdLife Cyprus, that has been fighting poachers and ‘sympathetic’ politicians for years.
“The latest decision from the European Court of Justice is very clear and puts an end to any arguments from pro-trapping groups that bird trapping with limesticks could be permitted on the basis that it is a traditional method of hunting,” said Tassos Shialis, Campaigns Coordinator at BirdLife Cyprus. “This decision validates and justifies what BirdLife Cyprus has been saying for many years now: that non-selective methods cannot be permitted under the Birds Directive, and that tradition is not a valid reason for a derogation in any Member State. It is a victory for wild birds and their conservation, and one that we hope will initiate the end of the illegal killing of wild birds with the use of non-selective methods such as limesticks.”