Sustainable hunting and conservation in Europe – An open debate to ensure new initiatives deliver for 7 million hunters

On 7 June 2023, a high-level event on Sustainable Hunting and Conservation in Europe was hosted by MEP Juan Ignacio Zoido (EPP, Spain) in the European Parliament.

The discussion focused on the role of hunting and conservation with respect to a range of important EU policy developments. The focal points included new initiatives concerning sustainable bird hunting, nature restoration, and the management of protected areas. The event aimed at promoting an inclusive dialogue regarding the future of wildlife conservation and the effective implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030.

The speakers debated the challenges and opportunities linked to the implementation of the new EU environmental policies and emphasised the benefits of actively conserving habitats. There was a particular focus on the role of sustainable practices in achieving Europe’s conservation objectives.

MEP Juan Ignacio Zoido (EPP, Spain) stated that: “As a politician and hunter, I am glad to see that there are so many of us who share such a noble objective: to preserve nature, and to contribute to the rural society and economy. Nature conservation goes hand in hand with sustainability, and this is always based on three areas: environmental, social and economic. Hunting is a clear example of this sustainable balance. Many forget the fundamental role that they play in the conservation of the rural world. Because of the migration from the countryside to the cities, our countryside has been abandoned. And it is hunters, together with farmers and landowners, who invest their time and money in taking care for the countryside and its biodiversity”.

Mr. Andrea Vettori, Head of Unit, Nature Conservation, Directorate-General for Environment, European Commission, stated that: “I very much welcome the public support by FACE and the hunters’ community for the Commission proposal on Nature Restoration. We need to restore biodiversity and improve the resilience of ecosystems, for the benefit of our countryside. I am convinced that there is no better incentive for hunters’ engagement in conservation work than the recognition that this will enhance the status of huntable species”. 

Mr. Szabolcs Nagy, Biodiversity Manager at Wetlands International-European Association, said: “The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 offers the best deal for nature lovers, including hunters and anglers, to recover nature including their target species. The European Parliament and the Council should adopt an ambitious nature restoration law that lives up to the biodiversity and climate challenges”.

Mr. Manuel Gallardo, President of the Royal Spanish Hunting Federation, said: “We call on  the European Commission to ensure that any data handled is objective and official. There are problems when data are supplied by entities that oppose hunting activities and these data are also highly questioned by the scientific community. We also stress the need to work on projects that ensure rural sustainability, and for hunting be recognized as playing a fundamental role in the conservation of game and non-game species”.

Dr. Michele Sorrenti, Scientific Director of the Italian Hunting Federation, explained that hunting is closely linked to conserving biodiversity. He gave examples from Europe, particularly Italy, where hunters have been active in restoring wetlands. He highlighted that These efforts have led to an increase in waterbird populations compared to other areas without hunters involvement: “Wetlands require active care, and hunters have demonstrated their commitment by working diligently on this subject. Additionally, the Italian Hunting Federation (Federcaccia) invests hundreds of thousands of euros in research on different bird species, resulting in scientific publications that contribute to public knowledge. They are requesting the government to better recognize and appreciate their role in this important work. Specifically, the hunting community is urging European and national institutions to involve them in the new Restoration Law”.

The event was moderated by Dr. David Scallan, FACE Secretary General, who also hosted a wide-ranging Q&A discussion. Recordings from live stream are available at this link (with EN-ES interpretation).

MEP Juan Ignacio ZOIDO
Vice-President of the “Biodiversity, Hunting, Countryside” Intergroup

Mr. Andrea VETTORI
Head of Unit, Nature Conservation, Directorate-General for Environment, European Commission

President of RFEC – Real Federación Española de Caza

Szabolcs NAGY
Biodiversity Manager, Wetlands International-European Association

Scientific Director of FIDC – Italian Hunting Federation

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