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European Commission - Press release

Commission refers Finland to Court over spring hunting of wild birds

Brussels, 8 March 2018

The European Commission has decided to refer Finland to the Court of Justice.

The European Commission has decided to refer Finland to the Court of Justice of the EU for illegal spring hunting of male eiders in the province of Åland. Under the Birds Directive (Directive 2009/147/EC), the killing of wild birds is banned, but some species, such as eiders (Somateria mollissima), may be hunted as long as this does not occur during the breeding or spring migration season, or provided that the conditions for an exception from the hunting ban are fulfilled.

The competent authorities continue to allow the practice of spring hunting of male eiders in Åland Province. The Birds Directiveprohibits any hunting of migratory birds during the rearing season or during the various stages of reproduction.Exceptions to this rule are possible provided that certain conditions are fulfilled. However, the conditions for exceptions are not fulfilled in Finland. The eider population is not at a satisfactory level. According to the most recent population assessments, the species is in decline both in the EU and Finland. Moreover, the hunting quota exceeds the allowable amount of 1% of annual mortality of eiders in Åland Province.

In December 2005, the Court had already ruled in its judgement (C-344/03) that Finland had failed to fulfil its obligations under the Birds Directive due to spring hunting of male eiders, among other species in Åland province.

The condemned practices ceased but were resumed in Åland Province in 2011 which is why the Commission opened the infringement proceedings on this matter in November 2012. In December 2016, the Commission sent a reasoned opinion, urging Finland to stop the spring hunting of eider males in Åland Province. However, the competent authorities in Åland Province decided to open a new spring hunting season for male eiders in April 2017.


The Birds Directive (Directive 2009/147/EC) creates a comprehensive scheme of protection for all wild bird species naturally occurring in the EU. It lays down the principles for the protection, management and control of birds and lays down rules for their exploitation. It recognises hunting as a legitimate activity, under specific conditions to ensure that this practice is sustainable. Birds may not be hunted during the various stages of reproduction or during their return to rearing grounds, unless certain conditions are fulfilled, for instance, that there is no other alternative to the hunting, that it takes place in order to prevent serious damage to crops, for research, or that it is selective and the quota limited to small numbers.

More information

-    General information on infringements proceedings in the areas of Environment

-    On the key decisions of the March infringements package, please refer to the full MEMO/18/1444

-    On the general infringements procedure, see MEMO/12/12 (an info graph)

-    On the EU infringements procedure


Press contacts:

General public inquiries: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 67 89 10 11 or by email

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