The Danish government is lobbying the European Commission in Brussels to prevent the mink from ending up on the ‘invasive species’ list of animals which Brussels wants to keep away from Europe because of the environmental damage they can cause.
The Danes worry that a Commission proposal to ban non-native plants and animals in the EU could include the North American mink, which are heavily farmed by Denmark for their fur.
Danish farmers produce 15 million mink every year, which makes Denmark the biggest mink producer in the world.
The auction house Kopenhagen Fur estimated Denmark's mink export was worth €1.5 billion in 2012. Other mink fur producers in the EU include Finland, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden.
There are over 12,000 non-native species in Europe, which, according to experts, represent a large threat to the continent's biodiversity.
The Commission estimates that invasive species cost Europe €12 billion every year, as they can damage infrastructure, agriculture and also human health.
Balancing ecology and the economy
According to the online media Altinget, the issue is of such importance for Denmark that the finance ministry has been briefed on the consequences for the state budget, should the mink be banned.
"Right now there is a lot of guessing about what will end up on the EU's invasive species list and which consequences this will have for Denmark," Environment Minister Ida Auken told Altinget.
"Let me be clear that we are only just now starting the negotiations following the Commission's proposal. And still no-one knows which species will be on the list. So there's still a long way to go – and Denmark will be very active in these negotiations," Auken said.
Alien species have no natural predators and they can quickly spread and overtake an area's native environment. In cooperation with member states, the Commission wants to draw up a list of the most invasive groups to keep them away from the European continent.
Economic interests will be taken into consideration before experts determine which animals will be banned, the Commission stressed. According to Altinget, the mink has been highlighted as one of the examples where the interests of the industry might prevail over nature.