Italy: In court for the turtle dove
The Turtle Dove is one of the 82 bird species that can be hunted in the EU. The highly endangered species is subject to hunting laws in 10 Member States, and around 2 million are legally shot every year. Added to this, are the birds that end up illegally caught in traps and nets. This does not include the shooting in the countries of North Africa, where even conservative estimates would indicate that hundreds of thousands more turtle doves fall by the wayside.
The EU Commission has recognised that hunting is a major factor in the decline of the Turtle Dove. For such species, Brussels demands "management plans" from member state governments that still allow them to be hunted. They are supposed to ensure that hunting does not lead to further declines. Apart from the fact that such plans are usually hardly worth the paper they are written on, the states concerned have not been able to present any meaningful plans. The EU Commission has therefore put pressure on the member states after several environmental complaints by CABS and BirdLife International. As a result, two of the three countries where most turtle doves are shot have reacted: France and Spain have suspended hunting of the endangered migratory species for the 2021/22 hunting season. However, the third country - Italy - is struggling with a voluntary hunting ban.
In spring, Italy's Ministry of Environment had recommended to the country's regions responsible for shooting permits not to allow hunting of the Turtle Dove in autumn 2021. At a meeting of the 20 regional environment ministers, however, half spoke out in favour of turtle dove hunting: Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, Tuscany, Lazio, Abruzzo, Marche, Calabria, Apulia, Sicily and Sardinia. The regular hunting season in Italy begins in 2021 on 19 September. By this time almost all turtle doves have already passed through, the 10 regions have decided to pre-open migratory bird hunting. From 1.9.2021, hunters here should be allowed to shoot up to 15 birds per person on two to four hunting days, depending on regional regulations. In total, more than 7.5 million turtle doves were potentially open for shooting - far more than still breed in Europe.
After a Europe wide press campaign by CABS which led caused widespread condemnation from all corners of Europe, and after considerable pressure from Rome, three regions - Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Lazio - have withdrawn the plans. In Veneto, CABS together with our partner association LAC, took legal action before the administrative court and won; turtle dove hunting is off the table here for the time being. With the same result, our friends from WWF and LIPU in Abruzzo, Calabria, Marche and Sicily and Sardinia have gone to court.
As things stand, turtle dove hunting will only be allowed in Puglia in Italy in 2021. Here, the 25,000 hunters will be allowed to shoot a maximum of 10 birds per person.