Norwegian hunting of the threatened species Lynx lynx

UNEP/Interim Secretariat for
the Convention on Biological Diversity
CP 356
15 chemin des Anémones
CH-1219 Châtelaine
Geneva
Switzerland

 
The Secretariat of the Bern Convention
Directorate of Environment and Local Authorities
Environment Conservation and Management Division
Council of Europe
BP 431 R6
F 67006 Strasbourg Cedex
France

February 26, 1996

Norwegian hunting of the threatened species Lynx lynx

Contents

  • 1. Background
  • 2. Violations of the Convention on Biological Diversity
  • 3. Hunting of female lynx with cubs
  • 4. Conclusion
  • Endnotes

We would like to draw Your attention to the management and hunting of the threatened species Lynx lynx in Norway. A large increase in the national hunting quota from 1995 to 1996 (from 54 animals to 104 animals) has caused much debate in Norwegian mass-media the last month. It is feared that such large hunting quotas in the long term may lead to the extinction of the lynx in Norway.

1. Background
Lynx lynx is already a threatened species in Norway. The size of the Norwegian lynx population may be in the order of 300-600 animals, but is not exactly known. The fact that the Norwegian authorities are also allowing shooting of female lynx with cubs, has in particular made environmental and animal protectionists upset. In the following, we will give a short background on the problem, and then highlight those elements of the Norwegian lynx management which we think may be opposed to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

We kindly ask You to take a closer look at the Norwegian lynx management and to assess whether it is violating the Convention on Biological Diversity which Norway ratified in 1993. The Bellona Foundation has today also sent a letter to the Secretariat of the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats with a similar request for a scrutinization of the Norwegian lynx management as opposed to this Bern Convention.

In Norway the yearly hunting quotas for lynx are set by the county governors, and the quotas for 1996 constitutes a total of 104 animals distributed on 11 of the nations counties. This is almost the double of the last years quota of 54 animals, and more than the double of the 1994-quota of 47 animals. This development shows a doubtful tendency since the lynx is already a threatened species in Norway and since there exists no precise and reliable estimate of the number of lynxes in Norway today. The fact that the lynx is a threatened species in Norway, has also been recognized by the Directorate of Nature Management in Norway by their inclusion of the lynx on the so-called "red list" which was latest made public in 1992 under the name "Threatened species in Norway – Norwegian Red List" (DN-report 1992-6).

The lynx is a very difficult animal to count, among others because it migrates across large areas and in part between several counties and across the nations borders. Thus, it is difficult to avoid the same individual being registrated several times. Norwegian authorities has therefore operated with rather loose estimates when trying to give a number for the nations total population of lynxes. The population in 1990 was in the so-called predator game-report (Report of the Parliament no. 27, years 1991-92) considered to be between 300 and 400 lynxes. Later, this number is said to have increased to 500-600, but this has not been documented in any way. According to an article in the newspaper "Aftenposten" January 31. 1996, the nations central game management organ – the Directorate of Nature Management (DN), "believes" that the number has increased, but does not dare to estimate todays number of lynxes anyway.

Further, there is not only a lack of knowledge of how large the Norwegian lynx population is today. There is also a lack of information about how large the population must be to maintain sufficient genetic variation and long term sustainability. The hunting quotas are thus almost doubled on an insufficient basis of knowledge. In this context, it should also be noted that the authorities have not put sufficient effort into mapping the todays lynx population before determining this years hunting quotas.

For comparison, it can be mentioned that in Sweden, where the lynx population is estimated to about 1000 animals, there is no ordinary hunting of lynx. In 1996, it is only given permission to shoot a total of 30 animals on very special occasions where the animals does large harm to livestock ("protection hunting"). While the Swedes thus are only allowing a shooting of up to 3 % of the lynx population, Norwegian authorities are allowing for a hunting which is probably in the area of 15-30 % of the Norwegian lynx population. Considering that poor access to bait, diseases like fox scab and other natural conditions in periods may lead to a relatively poor reproduction and high losses of lynxes, there is reason to fear for the Norwegian lynx population if the authorities continues to operate with such high hunting quotas as for this year.

2. Violations of the Convention on Biological Diversity
On the background of the information given in item 1, the Norwegian lynx hunting quotas for 1996 does not seem to be in harmony with the intentions of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which is dated 5. June 1992, and was ratified by Norway 26. March 1993. Especially, the following contents of the Convention articles 1, 2 and 8 should be noted:

Article 1.Objectives:

"The objectives of this convention … are the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of utilization of genetic resources including by appropriate access to genetic resources …".

According to Article 2., the conventions expression "biological diversity" includes a.o. "diversity within species".

Article 8.n-situ Conservation

"Each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate:

(d) Promote the protection of ecosystems, natural habitats and the maintenance of viable populations of species in natural surroundings;

(f) Rehabilitate and restore degraded ecosystems and promote the recovery of threatened species, inter alia, through the development and implementation of plans or other management strategies;

(k) Develop or maintain necessary legislation and/or other regulatory provisions for the protection of threatened species and populations;

As mentioned in item 1, it is highly doubtful if the present knowledge about the Norwegian lynx population is sufficient to know whether a yearly hunting quota of 104 animals is defencible from the view of maintaining a viable population of lynx and the species’ genetic variation (diversity within species), re art. 1 and art. 8 (d).

Since the lynx is listed on the Norwegian "red list" of threatened species, it can also be claimed that the 1996 hunting quota not corresponds to art. 8 (f) where the contracting parties are obligated to develop and implement plans or other management strategies to promote the recovery of threatened species. It should also be noted that the Norwegian authorities have not put effort into estimating how large the lynx population must be to ensure maintenance of diversity within the species (including genetic variation) and long term sustainability of the population.

Based on the wording in art. 8 (f), re art. 8 (k) that the contracting parties as far as possible and as appropriate shall develop or maintain necessary legislation and/or other regulatory provisions for the protection of threatened species and populations; there is also reason for questioning whether todays Norwegian lynx management as such is in correspondence with the Convention on Biological Diversity.

This because the hunting quotas are not determined by the national game authorities, but rather on the county level by the county governor’s environmental departments. Decisions of this kind have, however, to be made with a holistic view which can not expected on a county level. The county governor’s environmental department determines the hunting quotas from their own calculations of how many lynxes there are in their county. One of the sources of errors which may lead to an overestimation of the number of lynxes is the fact that the lynxes migrates over long distances and often have several counties (or even nations) as their natural living space.

The county-level hunting quota determination further leads to a lack of control and overview over the hunting quotas within the national game authorities. An expressive example illustrating this problem is that Norways central game authorities (Directorate of Nature Management and the Ministry of Environment) as late as January 30. 1996 and two days before the start of the hunting period, neither knew the size of the hunting quotas determined in each of the eleven counties, [1] nor the size of the total national quota.

The present arrangement for determining hunting quotas for lynx in Norway must on this background be concluded to be highly unsatisfactory, and it does not either seem to correspond with the Convention requirement that each Contracting Party shall as far as possible and as appropriate develop or maintain necessary legislation and/or other regulatory provisions for the protection of threatened species and populations.

The Convention Article 5. Cooperation. obligates each Contracting Party to, "as far as possible and as appropriate, cooperate with other Contracting Parties, ….., in respect of areas beyond national jurisdiction and on other matters of mutual interest, for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity".

Norway has a lynx population that is partly common with Sweden, and this lynx migrates freely across the nations’ borders. It seems, however, that Norwegian authorities have not put enough effort into coordinating their measures for protection of the threatened lynx with Swedish authorities.

3. Hunting of female lynx with cubs
In the Norwegian lynx management there are no regulations that says that female lynxes with cubs shall not be shot. It is in the hand of the county governor to recommend the hunters not to kill female animals with cubs (family groups), and this is often not done. It is totally legal to kill female lynxes with cubs in Norway, and this is done. The lynx cubs stay with their mother and is mainly dependent of her until April-May the year after they were born. Shooting a cub’s mother, so that the cub later may starve to death, is definitely to put the cub into unecessary suffering. Further, it should be noted that both shooting of cub’s mothers, pregnant females (the hunting takes place in the species’ mating season) or whole family groups are unfortunate for the population’s recruitment. We request the secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity to take a closer look at the Norwegian practice of killing female lynxes with cubs.

4. Conclusion
This year’s high Norwegian lynx hunting quota is an unfortunate result of the way the Norwegian authorities have chosen to organize the lynx management in this area. When the decisions are made on a county level without the necessary larger view to protecting the national threatened population of lynx including the genetic variation within this species, the problem is not only the countywise decisions in themselves, but the management system as such.

This management system in Norway has in 1996 given a concrete result which, at least if the trend with high hunting quotas continues, seems to be opposed to both national game legislation, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Bern Convention. Decisions about hunting quotas should immediately be moved to a higher, national level. Only here are the overview and management tools available that are necessary to manage the nations lynx population and the genetic resources of this population in a satisfactory way. This will, however, not guarantee that the future lynx management in Norway will be satisfactory.

The Bellona Foundation Sincerely yours,

Endnotes

[1] According to a newspaper article in "Aftenposten", January 31. 1996 (p. 4).

Mai Britt Knoph