The Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS) between the European Union, Russia, Canada and the USA was developed largely in relation to the trapping of certain fur-bearing animals and the trade in fur.
It included a number of requirements for testing and the use of traps in relation to fur-bearing species. Of these, only otter, beaver, marten, badger and stoat occur in the UK. Prior to 1 April 2020, only stoat could be taken or killed without a special licence.
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 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 current stoat-approved traps unlikely to be tested against the standard in time, BASC lobbied the government. This resulted in a new implementation plan 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 assessed whether proposed new traps were likely to meet the requirements of AIHTS. BASC is represented in this group and has financially contributed towards the testing of new traps.
Following the EU referendum, there was uncertainty over potential Brexit implications on AIHTS. However after representation by BASC and other organisations, ministers confirmed that the UK would meet its obligations irrespective of membership of the EU.
How is AIHTS being implemented?
All approved spring traps are listed on Spring Traps Approval Orders (STAOs).
These STAOs contain a number of details and rules for specific trap designs, such as the species which they are permitted to be set for, the circumstances and any particular requirements relating to their use.
The STAOs were updated as part of the AIHTS implementation process with newly tested and approved traps and trap configurations (the way they can be set).
A number of older designed traps no longer in production were removed. For other commonly used trap designs there was in effect a use-up period until 1 April 2020, including for stoats.
After this date only those traps which meet the AIHTS requirements for stoats and are listed on the STAO may be used for trapping them.
However, the use of other traps listed on the STAOs remain legal for certain species and circumstances providing all relevant requirements are adhered to.
General licences – stoats
As a result of the implementation of The Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS), there are several important changes which came into effect on 1st April 2020.
If you are responsible for trapping stoats you must comply with the Spring Traps Approval Orders (STAOs) and general licences. It is important to note that there can be differences between countries: