po polsku

About text of the Convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats, Bern 19th of Sept. 1979 (published in Poland as enclosure to Journal of Law of the Republic of Poland - Dz.U.nr 58 pos. 263 of.25.05.1996)

In 1995 Poland ratified the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, but the Polish translation was swindled on several key points. Although activists and concerned citizens from many countries voiced their objections and publicized this "mistake", it was not corrected. In the meantime, Poland continued its improper methods of fishing, which were restricted by the Council of Europe law After much effort, ranging from official letters (not always polite) to articles published in magazines outside of Poland, we achieved a victory. Although the translation is now fully correct, the controversy isn't over yet.

On 12th of June 1995 Poland ratified by signatures of President and Minister of Foreign Affairs the Convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats,(Bern 19th of Sept. 1979), after notification by government additional reservations to some of its items, which were published in Journal of Law of the Republic of Poland - Dziennik Ustaw no. 58/96 of 25.05.1996, pos 264. It means, that it should become part of Polish law and basis for further regulations.

I have bought text of the Convention in Polish Government Publishing House. It was published in Polish and English language versions. While comparing both versions, I have noticed, that in Polish text whole part of Appendix IV, about prohibited means and methods of killing, capture and other forms of exploitation for freshwater fish and crayfish has disappeared. Also, in my opinion, translation of this Appendix part for mammals was not correct.

I have notified to Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs about these discoveries in letter on 8th of November 1996. Copy of this letter was sent to parliament chancellory.


Answer came from Ministry of Environment Protection, in letter of 7th of March 1997 with confirmation of my opinions, promise of corrections in published Polish text and official prohibition of fishing with electricity. Also, the undersigned person declared, that the English text was original and valid.

In meantime, up to end of 1999:

Polish versions of such text was sent to some ministeries and President of Poland in August 1997, but because of elections in September 1997 and all turmoil around it, answer from Ministry of Environment Protection came dated 4th Nov.1997.

Meantime, I revieved Polish reservations to the Appendix I: list of plants species, which were declared as not endangered in Poland, and therefore would be not protected. Some latin names I was not able to identify in my materials (I am shipbuilding engineer), however, many of them were found in "Polish Plant Red Data Book" (5 out of 15) and next 3 species in my Atlas of plants with remark "seldom", "close to be extinct". Then, majority of another species were identified as seldom or close to extinct by friends from mailing list greenspl@plearn.edu.pl. Indeed, none of them are listed as plants protected in Poland, even if the regulation on protected plants contain many very popular species.
However, for example, banana trees are also not endangered in Poland - they are just not growing wild here. Was it this way of official thinking about plants?

Let us go back to the letter from Ministry of Environment letter of 4th Nov. 1997.

The undersigned person was the same official, who confirmed my opinions before. So, he confirmed the fact, that corrections of Polish translation of Convention were not published, because some appendixes have been revieved. All work around it was too complicated to do it fast, it means in half year from first confirmation. I guess, he meant, that correction would be never published, because, I hope, the Convention will always be adapted to actual situation in European nature.

Then, he has written, that living hares are captured in nets not for killing, but for scientific researches and introduction. However, all more or less official comments to this amendment of Hunting Law stressed question of high position in international live hares market of Polish exporters, and did not point any aid in introduction of extinct species in another countries.

However the issue is strictly connected to false translation of Appendix IV footer: "If applied for large scale OR non-selective capture or killing", translated into "if applied for large scale AT non-selective capture or killing". Alternative changed into condition. It is true, that idea of "large scale" was not discussed, neither by the Convention nor by Polish autorities.

At the end of the letter, the problem of fishing with alternate current is analyzed. Polish law allows fishing with electrical tools constructed according to standard no. BN-74/9197-01. As the official has written, "electrical tools supplied with direct current cause temporary electronarcosis depending on lenght of fishes". However, he has agreed, that the standard does not exclude equipment supplied with alternate current.

It seems to me, that the Appendix does not analyze sources of energy, it is output, which is important. Then I have checked the standard. In optimal combination it allows power of equipment without limits and pulse current voltage up to 1000V. Then, security of electric insulation is analysed and there is no any analysis of environment effects in the standard. Scientific background was from the Institute of Inland Fishery (Instytut Rybactwa Srodladowego). Temporary elecronacosis...

The worst of all is, that the official has written, that work on new standard is pending, which thanks improved vocabulary, would allow using these convenient methods more according to up to the now not existing yet Polish text of the Appendix IV part referring to forbidden methods and means in inland fishery.

By the way: part of the Appendix IV referring to crayfish has also disappeared. The problem of crayfish is smaller and smaller in Polish inland waters, as cancers are boiled while electricity fishing of "pests" and left in bottom useless. Also pollution does some work.

From technical point of view, such electric tools do not demand such permanent maintenance as nets for example. Then, less current is needed to kill big fish, bigger current is needed to kill small fish. The biggest current is used, while killing "fish pests", usually small or young fish, considered as "useless", with no consideration of their function in the natural system. Afterwards it is possible sometimes to see in TV great action of release to already cleared lakes or rivers any amount of artificialy breeded fry. Such fishery politics destroy local types of fish and cause spreading fish illnesses and parasites. On the another hand side, in the document "Strategy of environment protection in Poland" by the Ministry of Environment Protection, we could find a statement, that it is necessary to start work on strategy for protection of wild freshwater fish, as amount of fish in lakes and rivers has been decreased severely. This reduction was hard to explain, especially as pollution from industry and tourism has been reduced.

At the moment there are pointed two official explanation:

Somebody could ask, why such fishing methods, which are extremely disastrous in longer run are not only tolerated, but officially accepted in Poland? Are owners of fishing areas so unable to foretell effects of such activities?

Well, the first question is, who is owner of lakes and rivers. Almost all lakes and all rivers are state owned, but state rents fishing areas for some individual persons, enterprises, or to the Polish Anglers Association (Polski Zwiazek Wedkarski), usualy for periods of several years only. And here is problem, because such users are interested in fast exploitation, not in conservation for long-term stable use.

A special problem is in anglers association, which is the same disaster to fish and fishing areas as every other commercial short time user: their activists use electricity for big scale fishing, support fishing with live fish as bait, support idea of extinction of "fish pests" and replacing them with "usefull" species and so on.

So, why does Polish state permit such exploatation of fishing areas?
I wish could know, not guess only...

I am scuba diver... Diver dead after being shocked by electricity under water would look like after heart attack. Young, strong, healthy person, after yearly medical control suddenly dead because heart attack in water... So, divers evacuate, after hearing arriving fishing brigades. It is said, that there have happened such accidents in Poland before.

What else have I done with the problem?

It was necessary to ask for help in making the problem known to more people, than only my the nearest friends and governmental officials. This site is part of this idea.

Here I have got fantastic help from many people, whom I have seen almost only as e-mail addresses. They have helped to publish the story in various newspapers and magazines, both inside Poland and abroad. So, at least, I have earned some friends, some knowledge and some experience.

Thank you very much for support and good advices!

Secretary of the Convention was informed about the problem in November 1997, but up to 3rd of March 1998 Polish autorities had not answered to questions from the Secretary. Partial answer came at the end of March. Then it was promised, that corrected text of the Appendix IV would be published in that month.

However, up to end 1999 nothing positive was published in this matter.
Meantime, the standard BN-74/9197-01 was erased from list of standards for obligatory use, but in fact it means nothing, because it is still called by all regulations on inland fishery.

The European Union officially considers the Convention as basement for own environment protection regulations. So, the Enlargement Directorate has been also informed about the translation problem.

Published almost one year later the EU's guidelines for Polish adaptation of the EU environment protection standards contain requests to protect Antarctis, whales, migrating birds, etc, but nothing about protecting wild European nature. It is safe to protect Amazonas, while sitting in Europe.
Text of the guidelines in Polish is here.

22nd of July it was old national day in communist time in Poland.
In 1999 the Polish parliament commemorated this date again:
they have replaced an old communist regulation on use of Polish language in the state administration with the new statute. In general, they have managed to surpass the old communists nationalist law.
It seems, that the main idea was to save Polish officials from any obligation to learn foreign languages, to ignore effects of international contacts.
Polish text of the statute is here

It refers now not only to use of Polish language in state administration, but much more.
It is forbidden by Art.6 not to use it in written or spoken offers, labels, finances, instructions, including normal trade procedures.
For example, how to force my German customer to accept my offer in Polish?

But it is not all enough for our rulers, to ruin Polish international commercial contacts with the world.
It is also necessary to ruin officially Polish reputation as country obeying an international law and good traditions.

Art.7 tolerates foreign language versions of international agreements, under condition, that the Polish version is basic for interpretation, if not another one is stated clearly in the text.

For those, who would try to ignore the statute, just to survive without shame, there are provided controls and severe financial punishments. Citizenship or nationality of the controlled ones is not discussed in the draft statute.

It means, that all our fight to correct the "translation" of the Bern Convention would be much more difficult, in case of acceptation of such regulation.


At the beginning of 2000, (after it has turned out, that the world would continue its existence), I have written next, not extremely polite letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs. And I have received answer dated 31.01.2000 with copy of signed at that day announcement on correction of errors in translation of the Convention!. It was declared, that it would be published in Journal of Law in the nearest time.

And, for first time in this story, the official's declaration is met: the correction is published
Dziennik Ustaw nr 12 z dnia 23.02.2000 poz. 154

Even, if it is fundamental step forward, there is still far way to go left: fight against Ministry of Agriculture - responsible of inland fishery, Ministry of Environment - responsible of everything else.

They are obliged to change all related regulations, especially with inland fishing and at the begin of 2001 I asked for it, as I could not see any change in inland fishing regulation. Answer in February 2001 from the Ministery of Agriculture was, that illegal means of fishing are forbidden and they are preparing new Polish Standard on electric tools for fishing. There was nothing about clear statement in the present regulation.

In general it is going to be according to statements of European Union standard no. 60335-2-86:2000. Does it mean, that European Union also accepts fishing with electricity, without any official reservation and with boasting that the Convention is fundamental for their models of protection of wildlife?

Any next level of swindle?

To be continued... 11.03.2001.

Please, forward this message to everybody, You know.

Please, send comments to president of Poland by fax: +48 - 22 -621-03-31 or e-mail: listy@prezydent.pl
According to the Polish constitution, he is responsible of Polish foreign policy.

Autor: Barbara Glowacka, Poland, Gdansk, e-mail:jastra@ jastra.com.pl

---more - from legal point of view ---

Konwencja Berneńska - spis tekstów / The Bern Convention - list of texts

Polish text of the Convention is here (Word 2.0)
I promise to try to translate latin names into Polish (if exist)

Great Seal of
Gdansk with mediewian ship ==============================

do strony poczatkowej / to begin page