International agreements for the protection of Great Bustards
The critical conservation status of the Great Bustard in its entire European range prompted the European Union to designate it as a priority species for conservation. Member states - including Austria - are therefore obliged to introduce comprehensive conservation measures for the lasting preservation of remaining populations. The "Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of the Middle-European Population of the Great Bustard (Otis tarda)" has been in force since its ratification by Hungary and five other states (Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Republic of Moldova, Romania) on 1st of June 2001. Austria and Slovakia signed the memorandum on 28th of November 2001. In 2002 Albania, Croatia, Germany and Ukraine signed the Memorandum. Czech Republic is a member since 2008. The aims of the memorandum include strengthening bustard conservation at the international level, supporting existing habitat conservation programmes, some of which have been operating for many years already, and ensuring the long-term survival of these programmes by putting them into an international legal context.
The MoU is in agreement under the framework of the Bonn Convention, an international agreement on the protection of migratory species.
There are a number of international agreements apart from the MoU that are concerned with Great Bustard conservation.
The Birds Directive is a directive of the European Union on the conservation of wild birds. The directive (Council Directive 79/409/EEC) applies in Austria since its accession to the EU on 1st January 1995. The directive aims to conserve or recreate a sufficient diversity and area of habitats for wild birds. The bird species listed in the Birds Directive and their habitats are to be conserved permanently through the designation of protected areas under the framework of Natura 2000, a pan-European network of protected areas.
The Bern Convention is a Council of Europe agreement on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats. Austria is a signatory to the Bern Convention. The principal aims of the Convention are to ensure conservation and protection of all wild plant and animal species and their natural habitats (listed in Appendices I and II), to increase cooperation on conservation between contracting parties, and to afford special protection to the most vulnerable or threatened species including migratory species (listed in Appendix 3). Austria signed up to the convention in 1983 (BGBl. Nr. 372/1983). The contents and objectives of the Bern Convention have been transposed into provincial nature conservation laws and hunting laws.
The Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES or the Washington Convention) aims to regulate international trade in more than 3,000 animal and over 30,000 plant species and derived products, which are endangered or which may become endangered if their exploitation is not controlled. Species covered under CITES are listed in three Appendices, according to the level of protection they need. Austria joined this comprehensive control system on trade in endangered species in 1982. Offences are punishable by fines between € 726 and € 36,336. Particularly severe offences may entail prison sentences of up to two years.