New regulation prohibiting lead shot over wetlands takes effect from 15 February 2023

The REACH regulation prohibiting lead shot over wetlands will take effect from 15 February 2023 onwards in all EEA countries. The text of the regulation is available here with translations in the different languages. The regulation will prohibit discharging and carrying lead shot in or within 100 metres of wetlands.

Most EU Member States already have national laws in place except for Poland, Ireland, Romania, Slovenia and Malta. It is useful to note that waterbird hunting is not a popular activity in Slovenia and Malta has very few wetlands. FACE has supported the phasing out of lead shot over wetlands for 20 years and current national laws have been designed in accordance with national conditions.

What do hunters need to know?

  • The definition of “wetlands” is broader than many existing laws on lead shot over wetlands.
  • Wetlands have a fixed buffer zone of 100 meters around them for “wetland shooting”.
  • Anyone carrying lead shot within 100 meters of wetlands will be presumed guilty of wetland shooting unless that person can demonstrate that it is intended for any other type of shooting.

How to interpret the regulation?
The European Commission has stated that the regulation should be interpreted proportionately and in accordance with the objective (protecting migratory waterbirds): “Union law should always be interpreted proportionately and in accordance with the objectives of the relevant legislation, in this case the objective of the restriction, the protection of birds. The definition of wetlands must therefore also be interpreted in this manner” (link).

What is the main objective?
The main objective is to protect migratory waterbirds to implement the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) (link).

Can we try to define wetlands in a clearer way?
It is questionable whether national guidelines, or other national advice on the scope of the regulation are compatible with the general principles of EU law. This is because EU regulations are, in principle, directly applicable (unlike EU directives) and should not require guidance for their application.

Banning carrying of lead shot?
If a hunter is carrying lead shot within 100 meters of a wetland, but is not waterbird/wetland shooting, he/she can prove by any means acceptable to the enforcement authorities that it is another type of shooting they are undertaking. A hunter could justify this by saying that he/she was merely passing through the wetland to hunt elsewhere. It will be of course challenging for a hunter carrying lead shot to prove that he/she is not going wetland shooting because a typical day’s hunting includes time crossing water features and wet ground. For example, if an enforcement officer finds a hunter within 100 metres of wetlands carrying a lead shot, it is easy for the hunter concerned to claim a ‘positive’ (“I am hunting partridge elsewhere”), but in many cases difficult to demonstrate a ‘negative’ (“I am not hunting ducks within 100 metres of wetlands”). This is where proportionality is required and enforcement authorities need to be acutely aware of various laws that protect citizens’ fundamental rights and take decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Want to know more about using non-lead ammunition?
Visit the dedicated FACE website:

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