By Anna Heslop
On 8 May the CJEU issued an Advocate General’s Opinion in case C-674/17 Luonnonsuojeluyhdistys Tapiola, on the hunting of Wolves in Finland. With the final decision of the court due in the coming weeks it is useful to analyse whether the nuance of that opinion is being lost in the public reaction by interested groups, who have taken it as a green light for hunting protected species.
The Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats of wild fauna and flora) requires member states to establish a system of strict protection for animal and plant species listed in Annex IV of that Directive, including Canis Lupus – Wolves. Article 16(1) allows member states to derogate from that strict protection in limited circumstances and provided certain stringent tests are met. There must be no satisfactory alternative, the derogation must not be detrimental to the maintenance of the population at favourable conservation status in their natural range and derogations may only be applied for specific reasons, in summary:
- in the interests of protecting wild flora and fauna and conserving natural habitats;
- to prevent serious damage to crops, livestock, forests, fisheries and water;
- in the interests of public health and public safety, or for other imperative reasons of overriding public interest;
- for the purposes of research or education, for example for repopulation or reintroduction;
- to allow, under strictly supervised conditions, on a selective basis and to a limited extent, the taking or keeping of certain specimens in limited numbers specified by the competent national authorities.
These derogations have been the subject of a number of legal cases over the years, and the case law of the CJEU makes it clear that any derogations should be interpreted strictly (see e.g. C-6/04, para. 111 and C-508/04, para. 110).
Case C-674/17 concerns a preliminary reference from the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland for guidance on the interpretation of Article 16(1)(e) of the Habitats Directive in relation to derogations for the hunting of wolves. A final decision in the case is awaited in the coming weeks. Continue reading