Portugal Bans Nocturnal Olive Harvesting Practice for Upcoming Season

While conservationists have hailed the move as a step in the right direction, many of them have urged the country's ministry fo agriculture to make the ban permanent.

Jul. 13, 2020
By Julie Al-Zoubi

The Por­tuguese gov­ern­ment has con­firmed that noc­tur­nal suc­tion olive har­vest­ing will be banned dur­ing the upcom­ing crop year after a national study con­cluded that the prac­tice resulted in sig­nif­i­cant bird mor­tal­ity.

Portugal’s Insti­tute for Nature Con­ser­va­tion and Forests (INCF) have pledged to inten­sify olive farm inspec­tions between Octo­ber 2020 and March 2021 to ensure grow­ers com­ply with the national ban on the use of mechan­i­cal har­vesters at night.

See more: Mil­lions of Birds Killed by Night­time Har­vest­ing in Mediter­ranean

The INCF stip­u­lated that the dis­tur­bance and mor­tal­ity of birds was a vio­la­tion of Por­tuguese law and warned that any­one flout­ing the noc­tur­nal har­vest­ing ban could face crim­i­nal charges.

While Joaquim Teodó­sio, head of ter­res­trial con­ser­va­tion at Portugal’s Soci­ety for the Study of Birds (SPEA) wel­comed the move as a step in the right direc­tion, he told Olive Oil Times that the prac­tice of noc­tur­nal olive har­vest­ing should have been per­ma­nently out­lawed instead of sim­ply intro­duc­ing a ban for the upcom­ing sea­son then recon­sid­er­ing the deci­sion on an annual basis.

The Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture has­n’t issued a state­ment clearly for­bid­ding this prac­tice, which leaves it up to author­i­ties on the ground to inter­pret the law on a case-by-case basis,” he said. We’d like to see a firmer posi­tion from the min­istry, and a per­ma­nent end to this harm­ful har­vest.”


A study pub­lished by the INCF in 2019 found that mil­lions of song­birds were being killed every year in the Mediter­ranean basin as a result of noc­tur­nal suc­tion olive har­vest­ing.

It is esti­mated that in Por­tu­gal alone around 96,000 birds are killed each har­vest sea­son. Attempts to pre­vent the mass death of birds (includ­ing delib­er­ately scar­ing them) had been largely inef­fec­tive. Many olive pro­duc­ers have now rec­og­nized the neg­a­tive impact of noc­tur­nal har­vest­ing.

In Octo­ber 2019, Andalusia’s provin­cial gov­ern­ment announced a tem­po­rary ban on noc­tur­nal har­vest­ing for the 2019/20 crop year. The same INCF study esti­mated that 2.6 mil­lion birds were being killed dur­ing the region’s har­vest each year.

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