Is Norway breaking the Bern Convention?

Translation of BirdLife Norway’s article 20.1.17 by Ellen, for original text see birdlife.no. 

Last fall Norwegian authorities neglected to follow up and fix their own oversight on the self-defense paragraph in regards to predatory attacks in connection to the Diversity law. A weakened rule of law for the goshawk and other bird of prey is the result. BirdLife Norway means this is in violation with the Bern Convention that protects European species and their natural habitats.

In a verdict from 2014, the Supreme Court let an accused man from Lierne in Trøndelag walk free after the suspect had shot a protected goshawk even though other measures were possible. The farmer noticed that the goshawk was pecking on a chicken. He found his shotgun and killed the goshawk, without trying to scare it or in any other means of making it leave. The Supreme Court convicted the accused, who appealed the case. After several rounds in the Criminal Justice Court it ended in Supreme Court where it was concluded that the law did not provide basis for prosecution.

BirdLife Norway has an assessment that this creates uncertainty around the legal protection on birds of prey in general. Preventative measures and alternative actions must always be considered before reaching for the gun. When the Supreme Court means that the legislation did not demand this in this case, that is serious problem.

The goshawk is categorized as near threatened (NT) on the Norwegian Red List, and is included in the Bern Convention’s list II over strictly protected species. The species is also in the list II of the Bonn Convention, which protects migratory species.

Weaker protection for wild predators in the Norwegian law
All wild animals are protected in Norway, unless the law states anything else, for example through regulations, that explicitly allow for killing/euthanizing. In this case it is the Diversity law  (Naturvernsloven) § 17 that opens for shooting protected wildlife if it is in relation to acute situation, where a raptor or other predator attacks a person or a domestic animal, it is then allowed to act on the so called self-defense rule.

The Diversity law § 17 second part, 1 point (about people):

Wildlife can be killed/euthanized when it is mandatory for posing an actual and significant danger for doing harm to a person.

The Diversity law § 17 second part, 2 point (about domestic animals):

Owner, or another responsible person on behalf of the owner, may kill wildlife in direct attack with cattle, reindeer, pig, dog and poultry.

With ‘mandatory’ it means that one is obliged to do a proper attempt to scare away the predator, before killing can be considered. Good fences is also a central and known method of preventing damage on for example poultry, a praxis the Bern Convention recommends.

The term ‘deemed necessary’ is essential in the understanding of the law. Earlier, when one decided upon the self-defense in the wildlife law (viltloven), there was established a common rule for both people and domestic animals, where it was determined that a permit always needed to be necessary. This permit fell away when the decision was moved from the wildlife law to the diversity law. The term was only included in the first point, which concerns attacks on people. It is this change that the Supreme Court did not have the opportunity to judge the man (from Lierne) for shooting a goshawk.

The Ministry does not wish to change the law
Proposition 118 L was treated by the Parliament this fall (2016). BirdLife Norway/NOF had waited for such a treatment, that today’s law could be mended. The Ministry of Climate and Environment has been clear that § 17 in today’s Diversity law is a result of a inadvertence, an oversight.  That predators get weakened by the Diversity law was not intended, it was a mistake. In the constitutional letter dated to 27.11.2014 in the preparations of the elaboration of Prop. 118 L, the Department stated that the meaning was to continue the content of the wildlife law.  BirdLife Norway answered this hearing, and was supported by the Department that the law needed to be changed, so that the legislation would be updated after the intention.

However, the correction never made it to the proposal in the Parliament, where Norwegian laws are decided. The Department has therefore decided not to fix this mistake despite for their own recommendations. They write about this on page 7 in the propositions, where they write that the purpose is to see how the self-defense practice will evolve, and that there should not be done any changes at this time. BirdLife Norway means this is unacceptable.

Prosecutors in the grazing industry urges shooting referral to verdict
Prosecutors are well aware for the weakness in the legislation. In a letter to a newspaper in summer 2016 there was an urge by the sheep- and goat farmers of Fitjar to self-act against golden eagles, and . They are referring to the verdict by the Supreme Court, and claim that has given sheep owners an expanded approval to use the self-defense for when predators attack sheep or lambs. These sheep farmers in Hordaland (region on the Mid-West coast of Norway), have made a ‘flying restriction-zone for golden eagles’ that fly lower than 35 meter over ground level, and encourage shooting golden eagles without warning it, and if the eagle chases any lambs. It is unclear what the farmers at Fitjar mean about eagles chasing sheep, and if an eagle is below the 35 meter, if this automatic goes into action and definition. This example shows it is problematic to uphold today’s legislation. If one is in disagreement of national management regime, it is possible to use § 17 as an attempt to hide this behind a smokescreen for culling protected birds of prey. No cases where self-defense is claimed, and used, is the same. If the Fitjar sheep- and goat farmers interpretation of the legislation will be legit in a judiciary is more or less doubtful, despite the cited goshawk-verdict.

BirdLife Norway asks the Bern Convention to examine the issue of the Norwegian authority, as they mean today’s legislation is against the Conventions article no 9, that put claims that killing/culling can only happen if there is no other solution. It is very important to have a clear legislation on this area. The Ministry of Climate and Nature, Vidar Helgesen, said no to licensed hunting of two-thirds of the Norwegian wolf population this winter, because the Norwegian Law and the Bern Convention did not allow it, proves the importance of this. Norwegian birds of prey and predators have a right to good legal protection.

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Waiting for the golden eagle cull in Norway

Norsk nedenfor:

The last months after the announcement of the culling of golden eagles in Norway has been very quiet. What is happening, when is it happening, and mostly, how could it happen? 

Allowing to shoot golden eagles in Northern Norway caused a worldwide attention in June this year, towards a country which is well known and appraised for its beautiful wilderness. And shortly after, Norway also announced the culling of up to 70% of the wolves as well. The wolf culling caught on like fire, wolves are and will always be a favorable icon of the wild, and the support for them came quicker than for the eagles. Nevertheless, there is great worry of the predator politics in Norway, mostly because; scientific data does not support the claims of lost livestock. Furthermore, it is easier to get compensation by claiming predation. The very interesting yet disturbing news about livestock compensation is that while compensation has grown by passing 50 million Norwegian kroners (50% increase the last 10-12 years), the numbers of scientific predations by golden eagles (from 2015-2016) has declined by almost 50 %, all this information is possible to check at Rovdata, Norwegian Large Predatory Monitoring Program.

I had a presentation at a conference in Ireland in mid-November about the latest update on the golden eagle situation in Norway, based on fact and reports, and an international interests on conservation of birds of prey displayed great concern. Handling a finally steady eagle population by rifle management as first priority was very much what should have been the outcome of last by others. I will present these solutions later. Among the people at the conference were important and highly respectable persons within raptor conservation, namely Kent Carnie and Tom Cade from the Peregrine Fund, with whom I was honored to meet.

What is next? Early in November it was official stated that golden eagles predate far less than ‘firstly assumed’, which again shows a worrying state on behalf of the decision made by the Norwegian Parliament. According to the request of when farmers loose most livestock is in early summer, a time when the eagles themselves nest. I have stated this before, to open up for shooting golden eagles before they attack and also while they have young themselves, is unethical and an act against the animal welfare of the young golden eagles regarding protection and starvation. This is the situation that earlier reports emphasize; if the current situation of breeding golden eagles decrease, by 30 years the population will decline by half. Making it far below the stated national numbers.

Norsk tekst under bildene:

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De siste månedene etter at det ble annonsert at det ville bli jakt på kongeørn i Norge, så hard et vært veldig stille rundt saken. Hva skjer nå, når vil noe skje, og mest av alt, hvordan kunne dette skje?

Da det i juni i år ble godkjent for å åpne for jakt på kongeørn nord i Norge, skapte dette store internasjonal bekymringer. Norge er kjent for å ha vakker natur og rikt dyreliv. Kort tid etter ble det også annonsert at det ble godkjent jakt på 70 % av ulvebestanden i tillegg. Å jakte på ulv gikk som varm hvetebrød, ulver er ikoniske for vill natur, og det kom både større og sterke støtt for dem enn for kongeørnene. Uansett, så er det mye bekymring rundt rovdyrpolitikken i Norge, mest fordi, den vitenskapelige registreringen for predasjon stemmer ikke med tallene for mistet tamdyr (sau og rein). Det er interessant men også forstyrrende å se at tallene for kompensering av disse dyrene har stege til over 50 millioner norske kroner (økt med ca 50% de siste 10-12 årene), og tallene fra angrep av kongeørn har redusert til halvparten siden 2015-2016. All denne informasjonen kan hentes fra http://www.rovdata.no

Jeg hadde en presentasjon på en konferanse i Irland i midten av november om kongeørnsituasjonen i Norge. Alt var basert på rapporter og fakta, og den internasjonale interessen for bevaring og konservering av rovfugler viste stor bekymring. Ved å håndtere en endelig og stabil bestand av kongeørn ved å skyte dem skulle vært siste alternativ. Det finnes andre, noe jeg vil nevne senere. Blant dem tilstede på konferansen var høyt anerkjente og respekterte personer som Kent Carnie og Tom Cade fra the Peregrine Fund, og en ære å møte.

Hva skjer nå? Tidlig i november ble det annonsert at kongeørnen i Norge gjør langt mindre skade enn antatt, det gjør det enda mer fortvilende at Stortinget godkjente dette. Skadene og tapene av dyr er størst tidlig på sommeren, når ørnene selv hekker. Jeg har sagt dette før, men å åpne for jakt på kongeørn før fuglen viser tegn til angrep og selv har ørnunger, er uetisk. Det bryter med loven om dyrevelferd at unge ørner mister en eller begge av sine foreldre, og blir dermed utsatt selv for predasjon eller sult. Videre har det seg at om den nåværende ørnebestanden ikke tar seg opp i hekkingen, vil bestanden om 30 år halveres. Da vil tallene synke godt under de nasjonale tallene Norge har satt for å ha en bærekraftig kongeørnbestand.

– Ellen

Conservation status of birds of prey and owls in Norway

Norsk Ornitologisk Forening har publisert denne rapporten, skrevet av Oddvar Heggøy & Ingar Jostein Øien i 2014, for å gi en oppdatert info og konserveringsstatus om norske rovfugler og ugler. Rapporten er på engelsk og er et bra oppslagsverk med verdifull informasjon.

The Norwegian Ornithologica Association has published a report on the conservation status of Norwegian birds of prey and owls, written by Oddvar Heggøy and Ingar Jostein Øien in 2014. The report is in English, easy to look up in and gives valuable information.

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