Traditional hunting of the skylark bird has once again been authorised in France, after several changes to the rules, and a suspension of the practice by the high court, over fears that it breached EU law.
Decrees published in the Journal Officiel on Friday, October 7 once again authorised the hunting.
In 2021, the Conseil d’Etat, France’s highest administrative court, suspended the authorisation, saying that it was at risk of contravening European law.
But now several departments in the southwest have received reauthorisation to capture these birds using "pantes" (horizontal nets) or "matoles" (trap cages).
Catch limits for the 2022-2023 season have been set at around 100,000 birds in Gironde, Landes, Lot-et-Garonne, and Pyrénées-Atlantiques.
Ecology Minister Christophe Béchu told FranceInfo that he had taken the decision to allow hunting “with pante and matole…which are extremely limited", but would continue to maintain the ban on other techniques, such as hunting with glue.
But bird protection agency la Ligue pour la protection des oiseaux (LPO) condemned the government’s decision, saying that it was “choosing decisions that it knows are illegal”.
The EU 2009 European Birds Directive prohibits the mass capture of birds, regardless of species.
A waiver is only possible "on condition that it is duly justified and when there is no other satisfactory solution for capturing certain birds".
In October 2021, the same type of decree on traditional lark hunting was suspended by the Conseil d'Etat.
The judge said that the government’s decision risked contravening European law, and that there was thus "a serious doubt as to their legality", following its previous cancellation, in August 2021, of several hunting authorisations for the hunting of thrushes, blackbirds, lapwings, golden plovers, skylarks with nets or cages.
Yet, the court only suspended the authorisation, rather than deciding on the merits of the case overall.
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