“Malta is taking the Commission for a ride” – BirdLife Malta

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“Malta is taking the Commission for a ride” - BirdLife Malta“This year’s spring hunting derogation is clear evidence of the Government’s strategy of slowly extending the spring hunting periods from one year to the next,” BirdLife Malta announced today.

“Following the European Court of Justice ruling in 2009, which condemned Malta for its past spring hunting and trapping derogations, the government claimed that only a ‘limited’ hunting season could be applied and opened a six half day season in 2010. Since then the season has been extended to 16 days as announced by the Government yesterday,” BLM said.

“Further, the spring hunting season in 2012 allows hunters to shoot the maximum quota set by the Government, 2,000 more Turtle Doves and twice as many quail as in 2011.”

“The Government states that the quotas declared for the spring hunting derogation are based on the declared numbers of these species shot during last year’s autumn hunting season, although these figures were never verified.” Birdlife continued, “in a scenario in which it was made very clear to the hunters that fewer birds declared in autumn would result in larger quotas in spring, over 10,000 hunters declared a total catch of just 4,274 Turtle Dove and 6,229 Quail last autumn. This is less than one per hunter over a five-month hunting period.”

BirdLife Malta said that its request, made last month, for MEPA to provide a daily breakdown of Carnet De Chasse figures for last autumn remains unanswered.“Malta is taking the Commission for a ride” - BirdLife MaltaBirdLife stated that “the declared catches of the last spring hunting season provide further evidence of misreporting by Maltese hunters. A total of 5,642 hunters declared they had shot a total of 2,208 birds during a 15-day season last year (3). Despite the fact that most of the declared catches were reported in the last few days of the spring hunting season and reported catches did not correlate with migration influxes, MEPA ignored this misreporting (4).”

BirdLife Malta raised the question of “what further evidence is required for the European Commission, which has so far has failed to ensure the protection of both species migrating over Malta, to take action.”

BirdLife Malta concluded by saying “that it reminds the Commission that the opening of a spring hunting season in 2012 again disregards the fact that both turtle dove and quail populations are declining in Europe and that hunting during spring goes against the Commission’s own Hunting Guide (5).”

(2) The National Environment Policy Consultation Phase 1 Issues paper issued by the Parliamentary Secretariat for Tourism, Culture and Environment in July 2010, with reference to declared catches by hunters, states that: The trend is increasing, largely due to a steep rise in declared catches in 2007, when total declared catch increased by 80 percent over the previous year, from 153,094 to 247,755. This followed awareness-raising among hunters of the importance of accurate statistics Page 38, Paragraph 10.6

(3) Source: Spring Hunting 2011 Report issued by MEPA in May 2011

(4) Graph summarizing the 2011 spring hunting season

BLM said that the “graph above shows a comparison between the SMS figures received by MEPA for birds hunted daily in spring 2011, versus shots heard (during permitted hours only) and observed migration of Turtle Dove and Quail as recorded by an average of six BirdLife teams in the Maltese countryside. Note that hunting was not permitted on the 22nd and 24th April 2011 and shots could not be fired legally (and are therefore excluded).”

Birdlife said In summary:

“· 12,828 shots recorded fired during permitted hours of the spring hunting season by six BirdLife Malta teams alone vs. a total declared catch of 2,208 birds by 5,642 licensed hunters in spring 2011. Even based on the results of an average of just six teams, the number of shots fired outnumber greatly what hunters have declared caught. e.g. (i) 13th April 2011 – hunters declared 4 birds caught, BLM teams recorded 386 shots fired (ii) 20th April 2011 – hunters declared 104 birds caught, BLM teams recorded 4,041 shots

· Peaks in shots fired during permitted hours correlate with peaks in sightings of Turtle Dove and Quail (E.g. 20th April 2011 – shots fired increased coincides with a noted peak in Turtle Dove migration) · Declared catches of Turtle Dove and Quail do not correlate with observed Turtle Dove and Quail migration neither shots fired E.g. During the last few days of the season 327 (28th), 426 (29th) and 555 (30th) birds were declared caught. Compare this with shots fired vs. observed migration.

(5) Clause 3.5.40 of the EU’s guide on sustainable hunting[1] states:

Derogations should not be granted for species or populations with an unfavourable conservation status, which are declining within the European Union (or in a Member State considering exercising such derogations), whose area of distribution (breeding or wintering) is contracting, or with very low population levels, unless it can be clearly demonstrated that use of such derogations are beneficial to the conservation status of the species/population concerned.”

Photograph by Lars Soerink show 4 shot quail in spring 2011 that Birdlife Malta reports as being shot by a single hunter on one day.

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