MADRID – A European Union ban on the importation of wild-caught birds has resulted in a sharp decline of up to 90 percent in the global trade in exotic animals that fly, a study published Monday said.
The EU’s 2005 wild-caught birds import ban answered a need by European authorities to halt the spread of bird flu in Europe but may be causing those in the trade to find other routes to exploit the market.
“Markets are learning to adapt to the ban,” said researcher Miguel Araujo, warning that they are “seeking to compensate the drop in European sales by increasing the trade with Asia and the Americas.”
This was one of the main conclusions of a study titled “Networks of global bird invasion altered by regional trade ban,” produced by an international team including Araujo of the Spanish National Museum of Natural Science (MNCN-CSIC) published in the journal Science Advances.
Based on the analysis of the global trade network of wild-caught birds from 1995-2011, as reported by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) results, the trade has dropped from 1.3 million specimens to 130,000.
Before the ban, a small set of countries was responsible for most of the global wild bird trade.
About 66 percent of global bird imports went to five EU countries: Belgium, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain, the report said.
“We have yet to ascertain the impact of these new trade routes as in the case of Mexico, which has seen an increase in wild-caught bird trade but is also a biodiversity hotspot,” Araujo added.
In Araujo’s opinion, “the European Union ban on imports of wild-caught birds is completely justified but its overall impact worldwide can generate new unbalances, unless there is international coordination.”
Unilaterally implemented bans by a major economic power can effectively reduce species invasion risk globally, the report said.
However, by definition of their regional nature, these bans cannot eliminate trade-driven invasion risk fully, it added.
New, generally smaller trade routes created since the European ban came into effect, are driven by the availability of transport infrastructures and the vagaries of supply and demand.
The report also showed how a detailed characterization of trade networks can reveal the strong connection between global trade pressure and success in biological invasions.
“Although regional bans can curtail risk globally, to be fully effective and prevent rerouting of trade flows, bans should be global,” the report concluded.