Protecting sheep farms against wolf attacks

26 July 2012
Rachida Dati (PPE)

The rising number of wolf attacks is jeopardising the future of sheep farms, which are an essential part of the economy and identity of mountain areas in France.

Despite the measures taken by the French Government to protect flocks and provide for the collection of special levies, the number of attacks continues to rise. In the first half of this year, in the department of Alpes de Haute-Provence alone, there have been 30 attacks, killing 102 sheep. These attacks have become more frequent recently, leaving some flocks literally decimated.

Wolves do untold damage to sheep farms: as well as killing animals, they injure them and cause miscarriages and weight loss among sheep. The attacks also compromise the quality of sheep farms, on which the reputation of many French regional specialty products is based.

With a view to defending this important sector of the rural economy and giving French sheep farmers the means to defend their flocks, the time has come to revise the overly narrow classification of wolves as a species of Community interest which enjoys a high level of protection at a European level under the Habitats Directive and, at a global level, under the Berne Convention.

The European Union must respond to the damage done by wolf attacks to European sheep farming by amending the relevant legislation in order to allow Member States to protect farmers’ livelihoods.

Sheep farmers are looking to the Commission for answers. Each year they face the same problem. What action will the Commission take to help European farmers deal with these attacks?

10 September 2012
Answer given by Mr Potočnik on behalf of the Commission

The Commission is aware that the population increase of wolves in mountainous regions can generate substantial constraints and additional costs for pastoral farmers. However, the Commission does not consider that this should trigger a change of the current protection status of the wolf at EU level, as requested by the Honourable Member.

The provisions of Council Directive 92/43//EEC(1) (‘Habitats Directive’), while requiring Member States to take actions to maintain or achieve a favourable conservation status of the wolf, offer a sufficient margin of manoeuvre to ensure that economically viable pastoral activities are preserved, including in those areas where wolf populations are currently recovering.

In order to help Member States in dealing with expanding populations of large carnivores, the Commission has previously supported the elaboration of ‘Guidelines for population level management plans for large carnivores’(2). Moreover, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD)(3) can provide support for implementing (only) preventive measures. However, the Fund cannot pay compensation for the damages done by large carnivores.

The Commission understands that the French authorities have already put in place the necessary incentives and payment schemes to help pastoral farmers to adapt their herd management to the presence of wolves.

(1) OJ L 206, 22.7.1992.
(3) OJ L 277, 21.10.2005.


Plan to populate the southern Baltic with grey seals

26 June 2012
Jarosław Leszek Wałęsa (PPE)

Inshore fishing is a seriously endangered sector of Poland’s maritime economy. One of the reasons for this is the planned introduction of grey seals to the southern Baltic. It should be noted that this is not an endangered species; in 2011 its population numbered 24 000 and it is growing annually by 8.5 %-10 %. The seals introduced into the Słowiński National Park by staff at the Marine Station of the University of Gdańsk’s Oceanography Institute (SMIOUG) as part of a programme to restore grey seals in the southern Baltic are inflicting such heavy losses that fishermen have been forced to replace their fishing gear and start fishing for cod far from the coast, where the seals live.

In addition, the grey seal is known to be one of the main definitive hosts of C.osculatum 4, which poses a major parasite risk to fish. Of particular concern are the nematodes belonging to the Anisakidae family, which are pathogenic to humans. This is a major problem both for fishermen and producers because the consumption of fish containing live larvae can be a health risk.

Proof of just how irresponsible it is to continue to rebuild and expand the grey seal population in the Baltic is the way in which the salmon populations in the Gulf of St. Lawrence have been ravaged by grey seals.

1. Can the Commission take any action to prevent the further reproduction of grey seals in captivity and their release into the southern Baltic?
2. Can the Commission take action to reduce the grey seal population to a sustainable level?

16 August 2012
Answer given by Mr Potočnik on behalf of the Commission

The grey seal is listed in Annex II and V of the Habitats Directive(1). The competent authorities of Member States where the species is present are therefore required to designate Sites of Community importance (SCIs) for the protection of its habitat; if necessary, they are allowed to reduce the population of seals, as long as it is maintained at a favourable conservation status. Poland has designated for the species the SCI PLH220023 Ostoja Słowińska, where grey seal reintroduction programmes have been carried out. According to the last report provided by Poland under Article 17 of the directive, the conservation status of the grey seal in Poland is considered as ‘unfavourable-bad’.

In most cases cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises and baleen whales) are the definite host for the Anisakis parasites infecting fish with their larvae. Grey seals are the main host for specific parasites in fish such as Contracaecum osculatum and Pseudoterranova decipiens. According to the European Food Safety Authority the public health importance of live C. osculatum in raw and undercooked fish is not known. Pseudoterravova sp. larvae (the ‘cod worm’) were found very rarely infecting cod from the southern Baltic Sea. Provisions for managing parasites in fish which may be of public health concern, including Anisakis, are laid down in the relevant Regulation(2).

It is the responsibility of Member State authorities to determine the necessary conservation measures in order to maintain or restore the grey seal at a favourable conservation status in accordance with the Habitats Directive. The Commission has no power or intention to decide which population level of grey seals should be considered as sustainable, nor does it plan to take action to reduce this population.

(1) Council Directive 92/43/EEC, of 21 May 1992, on the protection of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora, OJ L 206, 22.7.1992.
(2) Point D of Chapter III and Point D of Chapter V of Section VIII of Annex III to Regulation (EC) No 853/2004, OJ L 139, 30.4.2004, p. 55.


Violation of Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds

28 September 2011
Richard Falbr (S&D)

Trees are currently being felled in Šumava National Park in order to eliminate bark beetles without relevant exemption clauses and in violation of Czech law 114/1992 Sb. on Nature Conservation and Landscape Protection in its current wording. The Czech Society for Ornithology, various NGOs and even Šumava National Park’s disbanded scientific advisory board have drawn attention to this issue and informed the media.

However, one fact that has been somewhat overlooked is that Šumava is not merely a national park and protected landscape area, but also a Unesco biosphere reserve and a bird area under the Natura 2000 system.

The species under protection in the Šumava region are the black grouse (tetrao tetrix), the western capercaillie (tetrao urogallus), the black stork (ciconia nigra), the corn crake (crex crex), the Eurasian pygmy owl (glaucidium passerinum), the Tengmalm’s owl (aegolius funereus), the black woodpecker (dryocopus martius), the hazel grouse (bonasa bonasia) and the three‑toed woodpecker (picoides tridactylus). Their biotopes are also protected.

In the case of the western capercaillie, the Šumava National Park is host to the only viable population left in the Czech Republic, and it is this population that currently faces the greatest disruption from tree felling. In view of this, the Czech Society for Ornithology has taken the extreme measure of lodging a complaint with the European Commission regarding the violation of Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds. The complaint calls for the speedy resolution of the current situation in a way that conforms with current legislation and the opinions of experts.

What steps does the Commission intend to take with regard to the violation of Directive 2009/147/EC?

23 November 2011
Answer given by Mr Potočnik on behalf of the Commission

The Commission has received several complaints alleging that the Czech authorities have breached provisions of Article 6 of the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC(1) in Natura 2000 sites in Šumava (SCI 0240314 Šumava and SPA 0311041 Šumava). These breaches are presented in connection with the measures adopted against the bark beetle outbreak this summer. The Commission opened an EU pilot in June 2011 and received a response from the Czech Republic on 30 September.

The Commission is currently analysing the response to determine if the adopted measures comply with the requirements of the EU legislation. Should this not be the case, the Commission will proceed with appropriate legal action.

(1) OJ L 206, 22.7.1992, p. 7.