Report on Bern Convention 2nd Meeting of the Special Focal Points Illegal Killing of Birds 24-25 February 2015
Purpose of the Meeting:
At its 30th meeting, in December 2010, the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention concluded that illegal killing of birds is still carried out and in some countries it is a growing phenomenon; the implementation of national legislation is often weak; the issue also involves other aspects like the transit of the killed and captured birds through third countries.The difficulty is to identify the illegally killed species and the need is for countries to co-operate work with conservation NGOs. Illegal mist-netting, lime-sticking, tape-luring, deliberate poisoning (especially of raptors) and illegal shotgun hunting were all under discussion. The results of this meeting have direct relevance to the upcoming EU overhaul of the Wild Birds Directive.
Attending parties and NGOs:
The term “party” is used here to mean the State that is signatory to the convention and which participates and votes in meetings. Party representatives were all from their national environment ministries: Spain, Hungary, France, Portugal, Macedonia, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Malta, Cyprus, Poland, Italy, Turkey and Georgia. The Bern Convention has a wider remit than just European States and it is usual to see representation from adjacent countries as well as EU States.
“NGOs” are non-governmental organizations approved to provide expertise. NGOs are not allowed to vote, but are allowed to speak, to question and to intervene. NGOs strongly influence discussions and are considered a vital part of the Convention. In fact the main presentations here were made by the NGOs. A good NGO speaker can greatly influence the voting.
The NGOs attending here were IAF, CITES, CMS, FACE, Interpol, SEO (which is the Spanish Ornithological Society), RSPB (the UK Ornithological Society) and Birdlife’s European Conservation Officer. The SEO hosted the meetings in the Spanish Ministry of the Environment Building.
The main reasons for an IAF presence: to ensure that anything derogatory said about falconry cannot pass unchallenged; to ensure that a strong distinction is made between “hunting” and “illegal killing”; to speak up for the Tunisian and Black Sea sparrow hawk falconers in discussions concerning the spring quail hunt and to speak up for spring rook hawking in the UK, should that be included in talks.
In fact, there was absolutely nothing said that could be considered anti-falconry during the whole two days. Falconers owe a great debt to our late former president and friend Christian de Coune for the many years he attended Bern Convention meetings, building relationships and adding something new and positive every time.
Cy Griffin, conservation officer of FACE, had a large input. He gave a presentation and chaired a working session. It was very heartening to see that no-where in discussions or paperwork was hunting linked with illegal hunting, the Convention was very careful to use only the term “illegal killing”. This is largely thanks to Cy, who had worked with the secretariat on producing the agenda.
Birdlife itself, in the opening presentation by its European Conservation Office, Willem van den Bossche, in a section on illegal netting of quail and small birds across the southern coat of the Mediterranean, also made the clear distinction between the legal capture of sparrowhawks and sustainable numbers of quail by falconers and the large scale illegal netting which is not sustainable and which is being targeted in the Convention. He specifically mentioned the Tunisian falconers and did not make any adverse comments.
Summary of matters of interest discussed:
Marita Arvela of the Directorate General for the Environment EU; she is involved in Good Use of Derogations, including Article 9 which is used for wildtake and for specialist quarry species. She said that the EU intends to increase its involvement in halting Wildlife Trafficking and that collaboration between stakeholders and authorities is to be improved. She spoke of funding available for training, awareness-raising and networking. We will be following up on this with her over the coming weeks.
Andreas Andreou, Criminal Intelligence Officer, INTERPOL, gave a presentation on databases, tools and mechanisms available to police for combating illegal killing of birds.
Cy Griffin, Director of Conservation, FACE, gave a presentation “The perspective from the hunting community and ongoing action”. This was mainly what may be seen on their web page http://face.eu/nature-conservation
András Schmidt of the Hungarian Environment Agency gave a PowerPoint ofa Life Grant funded project for Imperial Eagles in Hungary (nine partner organizations) with respect to illegal poisoning by agricultural and shooting interests since 2000, showing methods used to capture habitual criminals, including plotting incidents and DNA testing of cadavers to find the areas most likely to be targeted.
Bob Elliot, Head of investigations, RSPB, chaired a workshop on the identification of areas of offending and tools for for recording wildlife cases and statistical evidence. He stated that raptor poisoning by shooters and pigeon fanciers is a source of much worry,
The most interesting part of the workshop was a presentation by:
Pavla Rihova, Head of CITES Department, Czech Environmental Inspectorate, who spoke eloquently on DNA analysis as a tool for combating wildlife crime. DNA analysis is also being used to determine parentage of laundered wild-specimens i.e., false CITES Certs. It has even resulted in a prosecutions when suspected eagle poisoners did not wash their jackets.
These were the principle presentations of direct interest to IAF and to falconers. The other presentations may be found in the official report of the meeting, which can be accessed here when it has finally been completed by the Bern Convention Secretariat. http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/cultureheritage/nature/Bern/Birds/Meeting_022015_en.asp
I also chatted to the environment agency representatives of all the State parties mentioned above (section 2), including asking how they got on with their national falconry clubs. All of them knew the names of their national IAF Delegates and mentioned them before I did. All these contacts and their email addresses the IAF contact lists for future reference.