The State Commission for Natural Heritage has voted this Thursday in favor of including the wolf, without distinction, in the list of Special Protection. This implies that it cannot be hunted in a generalized way in any part of the territory. However, the proposal to declare the European turtle dove a vulnerable species has not garnered majority support and has been tied after two rounds. The Ministry of Ecological Transition will now be the one to issue the order to review the legal status of Canis lupus following the scientific opinion that recommended it.
The vote to increase the protection of these species has obtained a tie in the first round in which the autonomous communities and the Ministry participate, but in this commission there is no casting vote to undo such a result and obtain a decision on what is has voted again. And that’s when the proposal for the wolf has been approved, but the turtledove has repeated the tie.
In February 2020, the experts who reviewed the situation of the Iberian wolf considered that, although it did not meet the requirements to qualify as “vulnerable”, it was appropriate to equalize its legal status throughout the territory and that the species was among those protected without divisions to the north and south of the Douro river as before. They argued its “importance as a cultural and scientific heritage as well as the environmental services produced by the presence of this carnivore in ecosystems.” This recommendation was included in the draft of the new wolf management strategy in Spain that Transición Ecológica is preparing to update the existing one whose revision date expired in 2015.
The new classification of the turtle dove responds to the sanction process opened by the European Commission to Spain for not adequately protecting this bird as required by European Union legislation. After covering the notices provided in the community infringement procedure started in 2019, Brueslas sent a kind of ultimatum in December 2020, giving Spain two months to report how they would solve the problem. The deadline expired this Wednesday.
Theo Oberhuber, from Ecologistas en Acción, now asks Transición Ecológica to process the order “as quickly as possible”, but, at the same time, asks the autonomous communities to “stop the wolf hunts” and not “hide” in the time that the process lasts to “continue killing wolves, on the contrary, it is time that they facilitate the coexistence of the wolf with the livestock”.
The turtle dove has been suffering a decline in its population in Spain, which scientists attribute to the degradation of its habitats to which hunting pressure is superimposed. These arguments served for the Scientific Committee of the Ministry of the Environment in 2016 to recommend that the turtle dove be considered vulnerable and, therefore, leave the hunting authorization. But no further progress was made in that direction.
In 2018, the European Commission designed a specific strategy for the turtle dove, which included a moratorium on hunting to allow the species to recover. In Spain, the recommendation fell, practically on deaf ears until the file was opened. Then, some autonomous communities, which are in charge of designing hunting authorizations each year, began to reduce the quotas of huntable doves, but a few others maintained the permits to kill hundreds of thousands of specimens. Thus, until the last notice was sent from Brussels before presenting the case in the European Court of Justice to decide if a sanction (usually economic) is imposed on the Spanish State.