conservation


Canis Lupus in agro hominis

20 February 2020 by

If your domestic mutt makes friends with a wolf, and is prepared to eat and play with this visitor from the wild in your garden, does that deprive said wolf of the protection of the EU rules on the protection of listed species? AG Kokott at the European Court of Justice has just handed down her opinion on this tricky question of conservation referred to the Court.

Background law

The Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora calls for the introduction of a system of strict protection for species, such as the wolf (Canis lupus), which are listed in Annex IV(a) thereto. However, must that system of protection also be applied in the case where a wolf plays with dogs in a village? That is the question that has been put to the Court in these proceedings. As the AG continues

Even in its specific form, that question may be of greater practical importance than one might think.  The answer to it will be decisive above all, however, in determining whether the substantively extensive protection of species provided for in the Habitats Directive is primarily relevant to natural and semi-natural areas, that is to say, in particular, to activities such as agriculture, forestry and hunting, or whether it is to be taken into account without restriction in all human activities, such as the operation of roads.

You only have to think about this for a few seconds before realising the far reaching implications of the latter interpretation.


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Proposed ban on ivory is lawful – including antiques

12 November 2019 by


R (on the application of) Friends of Antique Cultural Treasures Ltd v Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – read judgment

“We believe that the legal market presents opportunities for criminals to launder recently poached ivory as old ivory products.” (Defra’s statement in consultation in introducing the Ivory Bill)

The Ivory Act 2018, which received Royal Assent in December 2018, proposes to prohibit ivory dealing with very limited exceptions. This includes antique items made with ivory. According to the Government, the Act contains “one of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales”. No date has yet been fixed for it to become law.

The purpose of the Act is to enhance the protection of African and Asian elephants in the face of ongoing threats to their survival. It does so by prohibiting the sale, as opposed to the retention, of all ivory (that is, anything made out of or containing ivory), subject to a very limited and tightly defined exemptions. These prohibitions are backed by criminal and civil sanctions.

The claimant company represented UK dealers in antique worked ivory such as Chinese fans, walking canes with sculpted ivory tops and furniture with ivory inlay. The appeal of these items is not confined to Sinologist antiquarians. Netsuke, smaller carved ornaments worn as part of Japanese traditional dress, are an example. Even for the non connoisseur, Edmund de Waal’s novel The Hare with the Amber Eyes is a celebration of the significance and aura that these ornaments bestow on their owners, not just for the carving, but for the material of which they are made. Religious, hierarchical, magical, and even medicinal.


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US court takes important step in resolving human/wildlife conflict at sea

30 September 2015 by

Sea Otters

Sea Otters

California Sea Urchin Commission, et al. v Michael Bean, et al, US District Court, Central District of California (September 18 2015) – read judgment

A Californian court has upheld the protection of marine otters over the interests of commercial fishing.

Sea otters are remarkable marine mammals who live their entire lives at sea, giving birth in the water and clutching their cubs to their bellies as they float in rafts of up to a thousand, holding hands while they sleep to avoid drifting off in the ocean’s currents. But they are not just picturesque; they are essential to the health of the seas. A main component of their diet is the ubiquitous sea urchin, which feeds on kelp. As sea otters have been hunted and killed as by-catch over the centuries, their diminishing numbers have led to the proliferation of the sea urchin population and the consequent disappearance of the kelp forests on the seabed. The damage this does to the marine ecosystem has been inestimable.

This somewhat technical judgment, made on a preliminary application for summary judgment by the fishing industry, therefore marks an important step in the judicial response to marine conservation.
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International Court of Justice orders Japan to suspend its Antarctic whaling program

31 March 2014 by

japan-whaling-e1270007253119The International Court of Justice has today upheld Australia’s bid to ban Japan’s Antarctic whaling program.

ICJ president Peter Tomka said the court concluded the scientific permits granted by Japan for its whaling program were not scientific research as defined under International Whaling Commission rules.  The Court had found, by a majority of twelve votes, that Japan had conducted a program for logistical and political considerations, rather than scientific research. There is of course no appeal against an ICJ ruling and Japan has officially said that it will comply with the ruling.

The following is based on the ICJ’s press release.

Findings of the Court

First, the Court dismissed Japan’s argument that the Court had no jurisdiction over the dispute, submitted by Australia.
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Wind farms, birds, and that pesky thing called the rule of law

28 October 2013 by

bp_whimbrel_15_240409_500Sustainable Shetland, Re Judicial Review, 24 September 2013, Lady Clark of Calton  read judgment

The current storms brought down a turbine in Teignmouth: see here for good pics of this and other mayhem. And the rule of law recently brought down a massive wind farm proposed for Shetland. The Scottish Ministers had waved aside a request for a public inquiry, and ended up drafting reasons which ignored the obligations in the Wild Birds Directive in respect of this bird – the whimbrel. Lady Clark quashed the consent on this ground, and also decided that the wind farmer could not apply for the consent anyway because it had not got the requisite licence which she concluded was a pre-condition for such an application. 

And there is a very good chance that the NGO which brought this challenge would not be entitled to do so if Mr Grayling gets his way, because it might well not have been held to have “standing”. Such a change he would regard as “firmly in the national interest”: see my post of last week on proposed reforms to judicial review rules. There are, to say the least, two sides to that argument about national interest, hence the importance of responding to his consultation paper, with its closing date of 1 November 2013.

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Habitats: the CJEU’s judgment in Sweetman

11 April 2013 by

Sweetman v. An Bord Pleanala, CJEU, 11 April 2013, read judgment

I posted back in November 2012 on Advocate-General Sharpston’s  opinion in this important case concerning the Habitats Directive

John Jolliffe from 1COR will be covering the judgment of the CJEU soon, but in the interim it may be worth setting out key passages from the judgment. As will be seen from them, the Court broadly followed the approach taken by the AG – though any first-time student of this area of law would do better to start with the AG’s opinion, rather than with the rather bland text of the judgment.

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Habitats: how to stop death by a thousand cuts

27 November 2012 by

Sweetman v. An Bord Pleanala, CJEU, Advocate-General Sharpston, 22 November 2012 read opinion 

In May 2012 the Habitats Directive celebrated its 20th birthday. It has been under a good deal of flak over the years, particularly from business interests both in and out of government. The reason is plain. The Directive has made member states identify important sites in their territories to the EU (with a certain amount of prodding on the way). It then tells them to keep those sites unaffected by development save in exceptional cases, where there is overriding public interest in the project, there is no alternative solution and, further, that there can be full compensation for the losses caused by the development.

So a member state cannot routinely fudge things against protected habitats in favour of whatever other public interest may be uppermost at the time – wind farms, or supermarkets or chemical works or residential newbuild on greenbelt, for instance. In all but exceptional cases (see here for my post on a proposal which was said to be exceptional), you must not adversely affect the site.

Now for this powerful system of protection in practice, thanks to a tour d’horizon (and de force) by the Advocate-General.

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Batty behaviour in Hampshire habitat

21 January 2011 by

Morge (FC) (Appellant) v Hampshire County Council (Respondent) on appeal from [2010] EWCA Civ 608- Read judgment

We cannot drive a coach-and-horses through natural habitats without a bit of soul-searching, says the Supreme Court .

The UK has conservation obligations under EU law to avoid the deterioration of natural habitats and this goes beyond holding back only those developments that threaten significant disturbance to species. Detailed consideration must be given to the specific risks to the species in question. But this consideration can be left to the quangos; planning committees are not obliged to make their own enquiries.

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