Finnish Island to Hunt Protected White-Tailed Sea Eagles

The Åland government has granted permits to hunt up to six young white-tailed sea eagles to protect endangered egrets and their chicks. Environmental organizations have appealed the permit, arguing that killing a protected species is unacceptable.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Finnish Island to Hunt Protected White-Tailed Sea Eagles

Finnish Island to Hunt Protected White-Tailed Sea Eagles

The provincial government of Åland, Finland, has granted permits to hunt up to six young white-tailed sea eagles on the island of Lågskär between May 14 and June 9, 2024. The controversial decision aims to protect endangered female egrets and their chicks, which are preyed upon by the eagles. However, it has drawn strong opposition from environmental organizations.

Why this matters: This decision sets a precedent for killing protected species in the name of conservation, which could have far-reaching implications for EU conservation laws and the management of protected ecosystems. The outcome of this case will also influence the balance between conservation efforts for different species and the protection of biodiversity.

Lågskär, part of the Natura 2000 network of nature reserves, is home to about a thousand nesting female egrets each year - Finland's largest concentration. The eider population there has grown thanks to the presence of a bird station that keeps natural predators away. However, the number of eels in the Baltic Sea, which the islanders have long cherished, has decreased alarmingly and the species is now classified as highly endangered.

In contrast, the white-tailed eagle population has increased significantly. Jesper Josefsson, Minister of Economic Affairs and Environment of Åland, emphasizes that the purpose of the hunt is not to reduce the eagle population but to protect the gosling chicks in their first weeks of life. "The sea eagle is their biggest enemy and the cause of their endangerment," Josefsson stated.

Previous measures to protect the egrets, such as hunting alien species and scaring sea eagles with bird droppings, have not been effective. Conservation hunting was also tried last spring, resulting in the killing of three sea eagles. Environmental organizations, including BirdLife Suomi and the Finnish Nature Conservation Union, have appealed the permit to the Supreme Administrative Court, arguing that killing a protected species in the name of conservation is unacceptable.

The white-tailed eagle is strictly protected under EU laws, with killing allowed only in exceptional circumstances. Teemu Lehtiniemi, Director of conservation and research at BirdLife Finland, considers the situation worrying as it sets a precedent. "Finland would be the only EU country where eagles and other birds of prey have been legally killed," Lehtiniemi noted.

As the scheduled hunt approaches, the debate over balancing conservation efforts for endangered species continues. The outcome of the appeals and the impacts on both the eider and white-tailed eagle populations remain to be seen. This contentious case highlights the complex challenges in managing protected species and ecosystems.

Key Takeaways

  • Åland, Finland grants permits to hunt 6 young white-tailed sea eagles to protect endangered egrets.
  • Hunt aims to safeguard egrets from eagle predation, but sparks controversy among environmental groups.
  • Decision sets precedent for killing protected species in the name of conservation, raising EU law concerns.
  • White-tailed eagle population has increased, while eider population has declined, sparking conservation debate.
  • Appeals to the Supreme Administrative Court are pending, with outcome impacting conservation efforts and biodiversity.