This letter followed the recent hunting licences provided by Swedish authorities, which allowed the killing of wolves and lynx since the beginning of 2023. As a “population management tool” under the Habitats Directive, authorities issued wolf hunting licences in January, although this species is strictly protected by the Directive as well as the Bern Convention.
The letter, signed by NGOs from a variety of Member States, emphasises that culling is inappropriate to manage Sweden’s wolf population and that it could threaten their survival, as well as impact European wildlife and biodiversity. Moreover, in March, lynx hunting licences have been delivered, and recognised by the Swedish hunters association, Svenska Jägareförbundet, as being carried out for “the excitement and skins”. These hunts did not seem to comply with EU legal requirements.
In the light of the current biodiversity crisis, the European Commission must take action to keep wolves under strict protection to allow this species to fulfil its ecological role, as twelve Environment Ministers from Member States supported earlier this year. Countries such as Spain, Germany or Poland have shown good practices of coexistence with this species, showing that it is possible.
The European Commission responded to this letter and recognised that the Swedish wolf population was currently categorised as endangered, and therefore, did not reach favourable conservation status. They also stated that in order to use hunting as a tool for population management, Sweden needed to ensure that such derogations fully complied with the Habitats Directive, and had no negative impacts on the species conservation. They mentioned that the infringement case against Sweden was still pending, and that they were “currently assessing possible next steps in this regard”. Finally, regarding the lynx, the European Commission mentioned that they were monitoring the situation carefully.
This response shows the strong position of the European Commission on the importance of protecting large carnivores and complying with EU legislation. However, concrete actions must be taken and repercussions shown in order to avoid future hunts as such, as well as prevent other Member States from breaching EU law but rather continue to successfully manage and protect wolf populations.
To learn more about the importance of wolves for ecosystems, Cees van Kempen realised a documentary, “Wolf”. This documentary was displayed last week at the European Parliament during an event organised by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), showing the history and life of this species throughout Europe. The trailer is available here.