European Commission Responds to Romanian Senate’s Bear Hunting Bill | WWF
European Commission Responds to Romanian Senate’s Bear Hunting Bill

Posted on 11 November 2019

The European Commission has confirmed WWF-Romania’s stance.
Romania’s Senate passed a bill on September 25, 2019, which would no longer restrict hunting of brown bears (Ursus arctos) in Romania to annual quotas approved by the Ministry of Environment. If approved by the Chamber of Deputies, it will become law. By removing bears from the list of strictly protected species, Romania, which is home to 40% of the European bear population, would return to a situation prior to 2007, before it acceded to the EU. WWF-Romania launched a petition (in Romanian), already signed by over 34,000 people, in order to convince the deputies to vote against this bill. WWF also wrote a letter to the European Commission advising it of the bill that if passed, would be in violation of the EU Habitats Directive.
 
In the European Commission’s response to WWF-Romania, it clearly stated that "Derogations can only be made under certain conditions,” and emphasised that the brown bear is included in Annex IV of the strictly protected species of the Habitats Directive, and "the killing of individuals of the brown bear species is prohibited by Article 12 of the same directive.” Moreover, Member States may apply derogations from the provisions of this Article "only if the conditions of Article 16 are met."
 
As expected, the European Commission reiterated that according to Article 12 of the Habitats Directive, deliberate hunting or killing of strictly protected species is prohibited, and that any derogation from the conservation measures must adhere literally the provisions of Article 16 of the same Directive. Member States may request a derogation provided that this does not adversely affect the maintenance of the favourable state of conservation of the populations of the respective species in their natural area and insofar as there is no satisfactory alternative to the derogation (alternatives that exists but in practice are unfortunately not systematically implemented or on a large scale).

However, in order to avoid serious damage to crops, livestock and other forms of property, the benefit of public health and safety, or for other crucial reasons of major public interest including social or economic reasons, punctual derogations may be granted. Under existing Order 724/2019, 140 bears and 94 wolves can currently be relocated or culled annually.

The European Commission has confirmed WWF-Romania’s stance that if the bill were to be approved by the Chamber of Deputies and became law, it would seriously violate the European Habitats Directive and put Romania at risk of a new infringement proceedings with serious legal and financial consequences.
 
Original article from WWF-Romania here.
 
Background
According to official data, our region is home to over a third of the approximately 12,000 wolves, 17,000 bears and 9,500 lynx living in Europe, excluding Russia. An estimated 8000 brown bears live in Central and South-eastern Europe. These ecologically critical, strictly protected and culturally significant mammals are threatened not only by illegal hunting, but also by increasing fragmentation and shrinkage of their habitats brought about by the construction of roads and other infrastructure. Despite challenges, in recent years large carnivore populations, particularly wolves, have expanded both within our region and to other parts of Europe - often putting them into closer proximity with humans and leading to new challenges.
  
• Bear hunting, without any restrictions on the number of animals shot, without a clear understanding based on scientific analysis which takes into account age, gender, natural population trends, etc. will have incalculable consequences on this priority species, including a pronounced destabilisation of the Romanian and European bear populations. When bear hunting was permitted, until 2016, the largest and strongest animals were killed. This led to a destabilisation in the population, and changes in the behaviour of the species, through practices such as large-scale complementary feeding. The effects of unrestricted hunting will exacerbate these perturbations, sowing the seeds of new human-wildlife conflicts and eventually leading to the genetic degeneration of the species;
• Unrestricted hunting will not efficiently resolve specific human-wildlife conflict situations, as it is not “problem bears” which are shot, but rather those with the highest economic value (a bear trophy is worth on average 8,000 Euros);
• The EU Habitats Directive places the bear on the list of species under strict protection, and whose conservation requires the designation of special conservation areas (Annexes II and IV);
• The Habitats Directive also clearly states that approval of derogations from the special conservation measures may only be made if other alternative solutions have been implemented without success. Due to the Government’s lack of planning and funding, alternative solutions have not been adequately attempted first;
• Romania risks the EU initiating an infringement procedure against it. Amendment 20 of the draft law grossly violates both the Habitats Directive and the national law which transposes it (OUG 57/2007);
• The management of the bear population and the prevention of human-bear conflicts cannot be achieved without the cooperation of all the key stakeholders, and without the availability of solid scientific data on which to base all decisions; and
• By removing bears from the list of strictly protected species, we would return to situation prior to 2007, when Romania acceded to the EU. On September 28, 2016, the Ministry of Environment proposed hunting as the only method for managing conflict between humans and wild animals. Following public pressure, it decided to put a stop to the quota-based hunting of bears in order to reform management of the species. Three years later, during which no concrete steps have been taken in this direction, the stage is set for unscrupulous interests to massacre this magnificent animal, a symbol of European nature and of the Carpathians.
 
WWF’s EU-funded LIFE Euro Large Carnivores Project is providing a platform for transboundary
cooperation between organisations from seventeen countries seeking practical solutions
for human-large carnivore coexistence. For example, beekeepers were helped to protect their
hives from bears through the erection of electrical fences around apiaries and traditional breeds of
sheep dogs were provided to guard herds.
 
For more information:
Livia Cimpoeru
Communication Officer,
WWF-Romania
lcimpoeru@wwf.ro
+40 21 317 49 96