The Game and Fauna Service carried out a Public Consultation on 5 August 2016 regarding the law proposals that it had brought to the Environment Committee of the Cyprus Parliament for discussion in late June. The public consultation was carried out after the Environment Committee had ordered the Game and Fauna Service to carry out a meaningful public consultation dialogue with all stakeholders, before these proposals are to be discussed in detail at the Parliament (read relevant June and July 2016 e-news articles). In particular, there are three proposed laws / regulations that the Game and Fauna Service presented during the consultation: a) ‘The Protection and Management of Wild Birds and Game Species (Amendment) Law of 2016′, an amendment to the main hunting legislation 152(I)/2003, b) Regulations on the ‘Possession of Breeding species of Wild Birds or Wildlife’, and c) Regulations on ‘Training areas of Hunting Dogs’.
The public consultation was attended by BirdLife Cyprus as well as other environmental NGOs (Terra Cypria, Friends of the Earth Cyprus, Cyprus Natural Coastline, Friends of Akamas), animal welfare organisations (Cyprus Voice for Animals), government agencies (Environment Department, Public Health Services) and various hunting associations. As expected the amendment law regarding 152(I)/2003 was discussed and questioned heavily by the various stakeholders, since many of the proposals of the Game and Fauna Service are very likely to introduce a series of relaxations and loopholes in the existing legislative framework.
The proposals of the Game Service in the amendment law include the following, amongst others:
- on-the-spot fine regulation for all offences,
- the issuing of written warnings for specific offences,
- the improvement of protection measures for habitats and SPAs,
- the possibility to use air rifles for hunting,
- the introduction of falconry,
- the legalisation of the use of artificial decoys as bird models and mechanical calling devices for hunting, and
- the legalisation of the comsumption (not sale) of game in restaurants for hunters to be permitted to take their game to restaurants and to consume it there.
BirdLife Cyprus was positive for the proposal for improvement of protection measures for habitats and SPAs. However, for the remaining ones we expressed serious concerns and highlighted that these proposals would be disastrous for the sustainable management of game and the conservation of wild birds, and completely ineffective with regards to better combating of poaching and illegal bird trapping in Cyprus. The same concerns were voiced by other stakeholders and the Game and Fauna Service was questioned on the need, the effectiveness and the practical application of these proposals. From the responses provided from the Head of the Game and Fauna Service, it was clear (and on some occasions the Head admitted it, e.g. air rifle hunting, artificial decoys, mechanical calling devices) that these proposals have been developed due to pressure and demands from the hunting lobby group. However, most of these proposals are in direct conflict with the provisions of the Birds Directive and if adopted could cause the Republic further headaches with the European Commission, something that BirdLife Cyprus also highlighted to the Head of the Game and Fauna Service.
The deadline for the submission of written comments and position letters regarding these law proposals is 2 September 2016, and towards the end of September it is expected that they will be discussed at the Environment Committee of the Cyprus Parliament. We will continue lobbying for the withdrawal of all these unacceptable proposals that have been included in amendment law of 152(I)/2003, in order to prevent further relaxation of the current legislation, but will also provide comments and feedback regarding the Regulations under discussion.