FACE response to open letter from MEPs to European Commission about Turtle Dove in the western flyway

The Turtle Dove story has hit the headlines in several media outlets in recent weeks.
This week, some Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have written to the European Commission (EC) in an open letter criticising its approach to Turtle Dove conservation particularly in its western flyway. See their letter here.

Following questions from journalists, the president of FACE and the presidents of the national hunting associations in Portugal, Spain, France and Italy wish to make the following statements:

1 – The letter highlights that the goal of recovering the Turtle Dove can be achieved with the involvement of the hunting community, not by excluding them. We share this view and express our frustration at the EC’s stance during the adaptive harvest management (AHM) process to reject a solution that works for the recovery of the Turtle Dove in the western flyway and the hunting community.

2 – We agree with the points raised in the letter about the importance of the hunting community in conserving the species. We stress that hunters invest the most resources into the management of Turtle Dove in Europe, which is reflected in the fact that Turtle dove is doing better in countries where it is hunted.

3 – With respect the reference to the AHM process in the open letter, we stress that instead of using AHM to find an optimal solution and to build trust, the EC appeared to use the process to validate the position that they have held openly for five years, i.e. to ban hunting. Moreover, it is regrettable that the EC’s weight in the debate was unbalanced by its position as chair of the meetings. The information presented to decision-makers forced them to make value judgements, rather than guiding Member States through a range of options to reach an optimal solution.

4 – With respect to the AHM process for Turtle Dove, we are disappointed that the core principles of AHM have not been presented to decision-makers and the EC has created a situation whereby:

  • Limited options were presented, with a strong recommendation to select zero-harvest, which is not in line with an open decision-making process.
  • The need to present a set of alternative population models was rejected along with a set of alternative harvest quotas. Only a precautionary (i.e. fully additive) model was presented.
  • Member States were not afforded with balanced information nor a comfortable space to make unbiased and informed decisions.

5 – With respect to the reference in the letter to the infringement against France and Spain for lack of habitat protection and ensuring the sustainability of hunting, we are extremely disappointed about the prejudicial approach towards hunting because the highest declines have taken place in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK where habitat has not been protected and Turtle Dove populations have crashed by 89-97% since the 1980s.

6 – We also find it remarkable that some Member States, which have failed to deliver on conservation of Turtle Dove, take issue with the sustainable hunting of the species in other EU Member States where conservation efforts are in place, particularly via the voluntary actions by the hunting community.

7 – Finally, we highlight our very negative experience over decades with moratoriums, which have resulted in permanent hunting bans, and continued population declines.

8 – In summary, we welcome the letter and support the call for the EC to urgently change direction for the sake of the Turtle Dove.


Torbjörn Larsson, President of the European Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FACE)
Manuel Gallardo, President of the Royal Spanish Hunting Federation (RFEC)
Willy Schraen, President of the French National Hunter’s Federation (FNC)
Jacinto Amaro, President of the Portuguese Federation of Hunting (FENCACA)
Massimo Buconi, President of the Italian Hunting Federation (FIDC)

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