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European Protected Species Licensing

Information on European Protected Species Licensing and how it applies to Marine Licensing

Marine European Protected Species licensing

Whales, dolphins, porpoises, turtles and sturgeon are European Protected Species (EPS). It is against the law to damage their breeding sites or resting places, or to deliberately capture, kill, injure or disturb an EPS without a licence.

 Whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans), marine turtles and sturgeon are protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, known as the ‘Habitats Regulations’. This is because they are considered vulnerable to decline throughout European waters. This information is focused on marine EPS licensing in Wales and is not a comprehensive review of their ecology or the law. 

European Protected Species in Welsh waters

Cetaceans in Welsh waters include:

  • Harbour porpoise, Phocoena phocoena
  • Bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus
  • Short-beaked common dolphin, Delphinus delphis
  • Risso’s dolphin, Grampus griseus
  • Minke whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata

 Other marine EPS include a fish and five marine turtles:

  • Sturgeon, Acipenser sturio
  • Loggerhead turtle, Caretta caretta
  • Green turtle, Chelonia mydas
  • Kemp’s Ridley turtle, Lepidochelys kempii
  • Hawksbill turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata
  • Leatherback turtle, Dermochelys coriacea

Legislation

Under the Habitats Regulations, it is an offence to:

  • Deliberately capture, injure or kill any wild animal of an EPS
  • Deliberately disturb wild animals of any such species
  • Deliberately take or destroy the eggs of such an animal
  • Damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place of such an animal

What is meant by disturbance?

Disturbance is defined as action that is likely to:

  • Impair an animal's ability:
    • To survive, to breed or reproduce, or to rear or nurture their young
    • In the case of animals of a migratory species, to migrate
  • Affect significantly the local distribution or abundance of the species to which they belong

Licensing

Natural Resources Wales issues licences under Regulation 55 of the Habitats Regulations to allow you to work within the law. We issue them for specific purposes stated in the Regulations, if the following three tests are met:

  • The purpose of the work meets one of those listed in the Habitats Regulations
  • There is no satisfactory alternative
  • The action authorised will not be detrimental to the maintenance of the population of the species concerned at a favourable conservation status (FCS) in their natural range

Licensing purposes

The Habitats Regulations permits licences for development to be issued for a specific set of purposes including:

  • Preserving public health or public safety or other imperative reasons of overriding public interest, including those of a social or economic nature and with beneficial consequences of primary importance for the environment
  • Scientific and educational purposes
  • Ringing or marking
  • Conserving wild animals

License Issuers

The Marine Licensing Team determine EPS licence applications for the purposes of preserving public health or public safety or other imperative reasons of overriding public interest, including those of a social or economic nature and with beneficial consequences of primary importance for the environment.

For the other purposes listed, Natural Resources Wales’s Species Licensing Team determine the EPS licensing applications.

Further information

For more information please contact the Marine Licensing Team: marinelicensing@naturalresourceswales.gov.uk

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