Ombudswoman’s report on ‘alternative plan’ does justice to environmental organisations

BirdLife Cyprus welcomes the recent report by the Commissioner of Administration and Human Rights (Ombudswoman) regarding the ‘alternative plan’ for selective hunting of blackcaps, which was published on 11 April 2016 (the report is available, only in Greek, at the Ombudswoman’s website εδώ). The report is the result of a complaint submitted by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) and Foundation Pro Biodiversity (SPA). The complaint was against the Ministry of the Interior, and more specifically against the Game and Fauna Service, regarding the fact that the Ministry of the Interior had prepared a draft ‘Strategic Action Plan for tackling illegal bird trapping in Cyprus’, which was not in line with what had been discussed and agreed amongst all stakeholders, including the unilateral inclusion of the ‘alternative plan’.

This is the second report from the Ombudswoman’s office regarding the issue of illegal trapping of wild birds in Cyprus. The first was published on 27 May 2014, which BirdLife Cyprus welcomed, as the Commissioner stressed then that ‘the policy of the competent authorities for zero tolerance needs to be stable, without any exceptions or flexibility and it needs to progress from declaration to implementation, regardless of tensions or reactions that may reoccur’.

The more recent Commissioner report describes the procedures that were followed for the approval of the ‘Strategic plan for tackling illegal trapping of wild birds in Cyprus (2016-2020) by the Ministerial Council, and presents the various letters and communication that followed between the environmental organisations, Game Service and others. Moreover, it refers to media articles (2 January 2016) in relation to the reply from the EU Commission to the Cyprus Government stating that ‘...the Commission is concerned about the inclusion of this ‘alternative plan’, which creates the possibility for granting derogations for bird trapping. This is a measure that cannot be accepted according to the EU legislation’. Also the report reviews the legal and technical aspect of the possibility to grant a derogation such as the so called ‘alternative plan’ and concludes that ‘Therefore the provisions of article 9 of the National law, which are in line with article 7 of the Birds Directive cannot apply to the blackcap and it is not possible to grant any permits for blackcap hunting, for any method’.

The report concludes with comments, conclusions and recommendations by the Ombudswoman. One of the final apt conclusions of the Commissioner highlights that ‘Having in mind all the above, I believe that the emphasis / focus must be towards the implementation of the Strategic Plan with consistency, in coordination and cooperation with the environmental organisations, and a focus on a zero tolerance policy. Any flexibility towards the phenomenon of illegal trapping cannot be considered and its combating will not be achieved with empathy towards the trappers’, while it stresses once again the important role that environmental organisations have to play against illegal bird trapping.

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