The agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS) is between the European Union, Russia, Canada and the USA. It was developed largely in relation to the trapping of fur-bearing animals and the trade in fur.
It includes a number of requirements for testing and the use of traps for these fur-bearing species. Of these, only otter, beaver, marten, badger and stoat occur in the UK, and only the stoat can be taken or killed without a special licence.
Traps are widely used in the UK to protect gamebirds and wildlife from a number predators, which includes stoats, so the agreement will potentially have implications for much of the trapping carried out in the UK.
The AIHTS process began in 1997 but did not come into force until July 2008. Parties to the agreement then had until 2013 to certify traps and a further period until July 2016 for implementation. Originally it looked as if the EU would produce a directive on this, but in 2012 it decided against this and the implementation was left to the individual member states.
With the date for implementation approaching and a number of the currently stoat-approved traps unlikely to be tested against the standard in time, BASC lobbied Government and a new implementation plan including a deadline of July 2018, was set for compliance of ‘stoat’ traps with AIHTS.
As part of the plan, a Defra-led Technical Working Group was set up to look at the issue of trap testing and assessment of whether proposed new traps are likely to meet the requirements of AIHTS. BASC is represented on this group and is also financially contributing towards the testing of new traps.
A key criteria for the group is that any replacement traps must be effective and comparable in size, cost and availability to those currently used.
Following the EU referendum, there was uncertainty if Brexit would have any impact on AIHTS. However, after representation by BASC and other organisations, ministers confirmed that they want the UK to meet its obligations irrespective of our membership of the EU.
Whats our position
On the 30 April 2018, DEFRA closed the consultation on AIHTS. You can download the BASC response to the consultation below.
It is planned that AIHTS will be now be implanted in the following way-
Spring Trap Approval Orders
Authorised traps are listed on Spring Traps Approval Orders (STAOs). These STAO’s contain details of specific traps, the species which they are permitted to be set for, circumstances and any particular requirements for their use.
This will continue and a new STAO (England) has been made and is due to come into effect on 1 January 2019, updating the list of approved spring traps and superseding previous STAOs.
Some newly approved traps will be added and others (currently only permitted in a ‘single entry set’), will be allowed in run-through configuration (the most common form of trapping in the UK) for stoats. Whilst some older trap designs such as the Imbra and Juby which are no longer produced, being removed for all species.
The STAOs also includes a date (1st April 2020) after which time certain traps such as the Fenn-type, WCS tube trap and BMI Magnum models will no longer be permitted for stoats.
This transition or interim period is essential as manufacturers will need time to produce traps, get them to the trappers and for trappers to make the transition to the new traps but the timescales are still tight. These other (Fenn etc.) traps will still retain their approval for other species such as rats and squirrels.
Because implementation of AIHTS is a devolved matter equivalent STAOs will need to be made elsewhere in the UK (Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) by 31 March 2019.
Because AIHTS applies to both live catch and kill (spring) traps, the current plan is to introduce the Humane Trapping Standards Regulations 2019 .
The main effect of this will be amending sections the relevant legislation and the introduction of a new Schedule 6ZA (containing relevant AIHTS species) in the Wildlife and Countryside Act (WCA) and relevant Northern Ireland legislation.
The current Schedule 6 in the WCA and this proposed new schedule prohibits the taking of animals listed within these schedules by certain methods. Licences for control using these otherwise prohibited methods would be issued and in the case of stoats this would be in the form of a General Licence similar to those issued for ‘pest’ bird species and will tie in to the approved traps listed on the STAO’s. The introduction of this legislation is planned for March 2019 but should have no immediate consequences ahead of 1st April 2020.
Until now, it has been relatively easy for a trap user to understand which traps are approved and for what species and circumstances simply by looking at the STAO’s. However, the addition of a separate General Licence adds complexity and the draft English STAO does not reference this.
BASC along other organisations is urging Defra and devolved administrations to work with the Technical Working Group to produce Government backed advice similar to relevant snaring Codes of Practice to provide clear advice and guidance to trap users.
For further information contact the Game and Deer Department on 01244 573 019 or by email.