Posted by: Dan | April 29, 2009

The EU Birds Directive and Its Application to Cyprus

This is part of the series of posts Poaching in Cyprus FAQ

What is the relevant legal directive on poaching?

I asked Martin Hellicar of BirdLife Cyprus recently to point me towards the relevant EU directives that pertain to bird conservation in Cyprus, and was directed towards the European Community’s Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds, known as ‘The Birds Directive’ or BD for short.

As Hellicar described:

The Birds Directive lays down regulations for hunting, banning spring and summer shooting (though derogations are allowed for specific reasons such as public health and damge to crops, but under strict guidelines), defining which species can be shot and what methods can be used (no indiscriminate or “mass” methods such as nets or limesticks). The BD also defines (in Annex I) which bird species are of priority conservation concern (rare or threatened). For these Annex I species, member states have to designate and manage the best areas within their boundaries as special protection areas (SPAs). Key areas for migratory and wetland birds should also be designated as SPAs. The management regime for SPAs was re-defined under the provisions of the Habitats Directive, which came into effect in 1991 (the BD was signed in 1979). Since 1991, SPAs are part of the Natura 2000 netweork, established under the HD.

The Habitats Directive does for habitats and all non-bird species what the BD did for birds. Hunting is again regulated and priority habitats and species are identified in the various annexes. For these habitats and species, member states have to designate Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), which form part of the Natura 2000 network.

When it comes to protection and management of Natura 2000 sites (defined in the HD), these are not nature reserves and developments and other human activities (farming, hunting) are permitted so long as they do not compromise the conservation status of the species or habitats for which a specific site was designated. Any major development has to undergo an appropriate assessment (stricter than a standard EIA) and only goes ahead if it is shown to have no serious impact on key species and/or habitats. However, there is a loop-hole for projects of ‘outstanding public interest’…

My immediate response, given my impression from what I know as living here in Cyprus, I asked, “From what I know of the issue in Cyprus, there seems both lack of interest in enforcing the directives, especially Articles 5, 6 and 8 of the Birds Directive. Is that about right?” His answer:

Cyprus has fully transposed both directives – Member States have no choice. We had to lobby through the EU to get some parts of this transposition changed, but the relevant laws are now solid.

On paper all is good – implementation is another issue. True for Cyprus as for most places. Enforcement needs to be improved on illegal shooting and trapping (esp. sale of ambelopoulia in restaurants), spring shooting needs to be put to bed and there are still two key sites that need to be declared as SPAs (Akamas and Oroklini). After that, there will be the huge chapter of management of SPAs to deal with…


  1. UPDATE: The EU Directive on the conservation of wild birds has been revised.


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