Romania’s new bear hunting law clashes with EU directives

After three years, the brown bear might become huntable again, as the Senate in Romania voted on a bill to remove the big game from the list of strictly protected species. If this new bill is accepted by the Chamber of Deputies, the brown bear would be placed in the category of species eligible for seasonal hunting. According to experts asked by local news portal Szekelyhon.ro, intervention is needed to regulate the bear population, but this new law would still supervise hunting of the animal. They also underlined that even if the Romanian Parliament accepts this new regulation, the European Union will then launch an infringement procedure against the country.

The proposal accepted last week by the Senate would remove the brown bear from the list of strictly protected species for five years, so the big game would become huntable again. According to the proposal, the bear could be hunted based on shooting quotas during the bear hunting season, from April 1st to May 30th and from September 1st to December 1st, and the annual quotas approved by the Environment Ministry would be removed. The proposal provides penalties for unauthorized hunting: Illegal killing of a bear would be sanctioned with a fine of EUR 20,000 during hunting season and EUR 40,000 for out-of-season hunting.

Experts asked by the newspaper underlined: Intervention is needed in order to regulate the bear population.

The leader of Zetelaka and Associates Hunting party, József Benke, told Szekelyhon.ro that this decision should have been made at the start of last year. The expert thinks that the proposal will be accepted by the chamber, and the shooting quotas will be approved next year. The quotas will be set by the Ministry of Waters and Forests, based on the actual number of the bear population. Benke also underlined that this new law does not approve unreasonable hunting and that hunting will be strictly controlled: Bears will only be able to be hunted during hunting seasons and on the basis of a quota approved by the ministry. In his opinion, population-regulating intervention is needed, as the over-breeding of the bear population has become a national problem.

Bears in backyard
Bears represent a national problem. Photo: MTI/Nándor Veres


Even if the Romanian Parliament accepts the law, nothing will change in practice because without the approval of the European Union, big-game hunting cannot begin, Róbert Szép, former Deputy Chief Commissioner within the National Environmental Guard, told Székelyhon. Szép participated last year in the development of a national action plan for the conservation of the bear population. He said that the relevant EU directives cannot be overruled by a Romanian law. So if bear hunting starts in the country, the EU would launch infringement proceedings against Romania. The Union may authorize wildlife regulations, but this requires a detailed study on the domestic bear population conducted by the Ministry of the Environment. This has not yet happened even though the ministry had three years to take steps regarding the issue – he said.

Bears in field
Bear hunting was banned three years ago in Romania. The number of annual hunting quotas – 140 bears this year – were set by the Ministry of the Environment. Photo: Facebook/Medveles


Szép explained that the Senate tried to counteract the persistent inertia of the Ministry of the Environment, but he believes that the decision should have been made by the ministry and not by the politicians. “The ministry would have had time during the last three years to do the proper studies and convince the residents that interventions were necessary,” Szép emphasized.

According to the expert, despite the initial protest, there is now a consensus among residents on the need for intervention. “Most people realized that we should do something about the issue. Not in any way, not in any form, but intervention is required. If the ministry had acted, the Senate would not have been forced to make such decisions. And perhaps it would have been much more credible for civilians if the ministry had taken the initiative. But unfortunately the ministry was not able to solve this problem for three years,” Szép said in the interview.

Tilte image: Intervention is needed in order to regulate the bear population in Romania. Photo: Facebook/Medveles

Author: Orsi Sarány