The decision could ban the use of lead shot in hunting and sport shooting in most of Finland and cause hunters serious legal problems. However, the European Parliament can still reject this proposal.
The Commission's proposal on lead shot will now be submitted to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe for a three-month inspection procedure, approved by the EU Member States' REACH Committee. The European Parliament's task is to exercise its powers of scrutiny as a representative of European citizens and as an EU institution. Parliament still has the power to reject this non-functioning proposal.
If the proposal is approved in the European Parliament's inspection procedure, it will be included in the REACH Regulation and enter into force in all EU Member States in the form in which it is written.
The lead shot restriction is impossible
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)'s Implementation Forum noted at an early stage that the proposed Ramsar definition creates serious implementation problems. Ramsar is a global wetland agreement between states. During the official decision-making process, the ECHA forum was consulted, but its advice was not taken into account, as were several other recommendations.
With regard to the definition of wetlands, the Committee for Socio-Economic Analyzes within ECHA (SEAC) noted that the inclusion of peatlands would lead to several difficulties in identifying wetlands in the field. Hunters need to know if they are following the restriction or not. If the hunter uses lead or even carries it with him, there is always a risk that he or she moves unnoticed on the wetland or within the protection zone of 100 meters that is included in the restriction proposal.
The hunters' association reminds that it is good to understand that a pool of water of one square meter formed after a heavy rain together with a protection zone of 100 meters forms a three hectare "wetland". These situations cannot be defined in advance, so it would be impossible to apply the restriction in practice.
ECHA's SEAC Committee also addressed the issues of banning the possession of lead shot in a wetland protection zone, as well as ECHA's implementation forum. The Forum's opinion emphasized serious doubts about including holdings in the scope of REACH, as it deals with the production, placing on the market or use of economic operators, but not the holdings of ordinary citizens. Why was this advice ignored?
Despite four failed attempts, the Commission has once again forwarded the proposal to the REACH Committee instead of ensuring that it works for European hunters, marksmen and farmers. In these times, it is necessary for the EU institutions, in particular the European Commission, to try to build trust in European citizens instead of creating great confusion and legal uncertainty.
A total ban on lead shot is not an option for Finland
Finland is one of the EU member states whose area according to the Ramsar definition is at least 20 percent wetland areas. Due to this, Finland has two different options for implementing the ban on lead shot. The first option is to introduce a ban on lead shot in Ramsar wetlands in the way decided by the EU, and to allow the use of lead shot in other areas. Then the transition period is 2 years. The second option is to make a national decision and ban the use of lead shot and its placing on the market, which would mean a transition period of 3 years.
"Immediately after the decision, the Swedish Hunters' Association contacted members of parliament and ministries and emphasized the reasons why the Finnish Hunters' Association absolutely opposes the total ban on lead shot if the EU Parliament approves the regulation as such," emphasizes Tuomas Hallenberg, chairman of the Swedish Hunters' Association .
Even if an excessive definition of wetlands excludes large areas in Finland from the use of lead shot, it still leaves the possibility of using lead shot on shooting ranges that are not within the Ramsar area's area of influence. In addition, lead shot can also be used in areas outside wetlands, for example in crow hunting. It would also be possible to hunt, for example, ring doves in certain areas.
The use of lead shot has been banned in Finland in seabird hunting since 1996. In the now approved proposal, wetlands according to the Ramsar definition, in addition to water areas, are also peatlands. One third of Finland's land area is peatland and in the north there are relatively more peatlands than in southern Finland. If Finland were to opt for a total ban on lead shot, it would prevent the use of lead shot cartridges not only for hunting but also for training and competition use on all shooting ranges.
Many of the alternative hunting cartridges that replace lead are significantly more expensive than lead shot cartridges. In addition, Finnish hunters have a large number of older shotguns whose usefulness and value the ban on lead would have a major impact on.
From the very beginning to the end, the Swedish Hunters' Association has opposed the EU decision now taken. The Swedish Hunters' Association does not oppose the proposal because we have to abolish the use of lead shot in the real habitats of waterfowl, but because the now approved proposal does not make sense. Finland has also opposed the Commission's proposal throughout the process, and this guideline has been approved by both the Riksdag's Environment and Forestry Committee.
If the European Parliament nevertheless approves the Commission's proposal on the use of lead shot, the Swedish Hunters' Association demands that the ban on lead shot be introduced only in those areas where it is necessary. In addition, it is necessary to ensure that both hunters and the authorities receive adequate training and advice while continuing the necessary research on the subject.