Update: EC requests justifications for spring hunting – BirdLife

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Spring hunting: EC requests justifications to Maltese Government - BirdLifeUpdate with reaction by KSU & WBRU – During a press conference held today, BirdLife Malta stated that the Government’s decision to open this year’s spring hunting season has been purely political and lacks any scientific basis.

“This continues to show how the Ornis Committee, who has a natural majority representing government, is a wasted committee lacking scientific reasoning, where BirdLife Malta’s vote is always at a minority.”

BirdLife Malta stated that it is also aware that the European Commission has formally requested the Maltese Government a full justification of this year’s spring hunting season. It said this request sends a clear message that the European Commission is doubting the sustainability of this year’s spring hunting season in Malta.

BirdLife Malta reminded that while the European Turtle Dove has declined by 30 per cent over the last fifteen years, Malta remains the only member state to allow its killing in spring in all of Europe.

It is for this reason, that BirdLife Malta said, that it once again has requested Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to halt the spring hunting season.

BLM said that, during the last Ornis Committee meeting, Head of Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) Sergei Golovkin could not present the scientific reasonings for opening this year’s spring hunting season. On the other hand, the WBRU head explained how government had held meetings with FKNK (Federazzjoni Kaccaturi Nassaba u Konservazzjonisti) and KSU (Kaccaturi San Ubertu). “The hunting organisations were given the opportunity to suggest the conditions of the spring hunting season.”

Birdlife added that , finally WBRU presented a number of proposals to the central government, following which the parameters for the hunting season were decided upon. “During the same Ornis Committee meeting, it was also explained how the government took into consideration the fact that although the Turtle Dove was classified as Vulnerable, it was still listed under Annex 2 of the Birds Directive.”

“The Government had also noted that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) did not take a position on the spring hunting of Turtle Dove in Malta, and that in Europe the numbers of Turtle Doves killed in autumn are much larger,” sad BirdLife.

“Finally, it was explained that the government had still the possibility of applying a derogation to the EU Birds Directive since autumn does not present a satisfactory opportunity for hunters in Malta.”

BirdLife Malta insisted that these considerations show clearly that the decision to open a spring hunting season, and the conditions of this same hunting season, have no scientific backing or a valid justification. “The government has accordingly made an incorrect political decision to press on with a spring hunting season in 2016.”

Over and above all, BirdLife Malta stated that it reminds the Government that it “carries the duty and obligation to ensure the protection of all bird species that migrate to Europe over Malta during this period.”

It demanded that the Government not to tolerate any abuse or illegal killing of protected species. Since the start of the season, cases of illegal hunting have already been reported. “If the Government had to apply the same tolerance measures as those of last year, the spring hunting season should have already been closed.”

Claims by NGO false and misleading – WBRU

Birdlife Malta is attempting to mislead the public on spring hunting, the Wild Birds Regulation Unit said with reference to the reported coverage of Birdlife Malta’s press conference today.

“The organisation’s statements omitted the fact that Birdlife Malta’s representatives on the Ornis Committee voted in support of the motion that recommends to the government that, in view of the recent reclassification of the Turtle Dove as a ‘vulnerable’ IUCN Red List species and a ‘near-threatened’ species at EU27 level, the government should apply special measures to further reduce the impact of spring hunting on the population of that species,” it said.

This recommendation was adopted unanimously at the Ornis sitting on 25th February 2016. This recommendation was adopted following extensive deliberations held over four previous Ornis sessions during which the Wild Birds Regulation Unit presented to the Committee volumes of scientific and technical data, in order to enable the Committee to make an informed recommendation.

In particular, the Unit said that it presented to the Committee a report on the outcome of the 2015 spring hunting derogation, reports of turtle dove and quail migration studies conducted in autumn and spring 2015, a scientific assessment of the conservation status of turtle dove and quail, as well as detailed analysis of turtle dove and quail bags reported during previous autumn.

The Wild Birds Regulations Unit enclosed to the media today all these reports and data presented to Ornis, as well as approved minutes of Committee meetings where these reports were debated and the statistics pertaining to enforcement during past spring hunting seasons.

The WBRU said that subsequent to the Ornis recommendation, the government has reduced the length of the spring season from three weeks to two weeks, reduced hunting hours from 2pm to noon on weekdays, reduced the national quota of turtle dove from 11,000 birds to only 5,000, shortened the length of the autumn season for turtle dove from five months to one month only, and imposed a national quota of 7,000 birds in the autumn.

“However, at the last Ornis session held on 20th April, Birdlife Malta asked the Wild Birds Regulation Unit to “provide justification” behind the measures taken. In response to this request, the Head of the Unit Sergei Golovkin explained that the government took full note of the reported decline in the population status of Turtle Dove and its uplisting to ‘Near Threatened’ within EU27; however, it has also noted that the species remains part of Annex II/B of the Birds Directive, and indeed is hunted extensively in nine EU Member States, apart from Malta. He also explained in detail the process that led to the decision on the spring season,” the WBRU concluded.

KSU statement:

Kaccaturi San Ubertu (KSU) in a statement this afternoon, said that it notes, what it describes as “the persistent negativity of BirdLife Malta as part of its anti hunting strategy.”

It added that “the exemplary behavior of hunters has been praised by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) and the independent ornithologist Dr. Natalino Fenech. Both acknowledge a significant improvement in the situation.”

KSU stated, “on the other hand BirdLife Malta, discredit fact by stating this situation is a result of less birds migrating over Malta.”

KSU added that there was an absence of proof to sustain this claim and referred “to the lack of the usual media coverage following any atrocity as proof of fact.”

The organisation said that “the meting out of harsh penalties by the judiciary coupled with a firm resolve to eradicate abuse by the enforcement authorities and hunting organisations has attained the desired results.”

“Protected birds have been migrating in significant numbers this season as can be attested by the general public and the number of records, photos and videos posted by hunters and ornithologists on social media.”

KSU concluded by saying that it categorically denied BirdLife Malta’s claims and said that it “considers them to be part of their ongoing ploy to influence the public and European Commission’s perception of Maltese hunting.”

Photo by Aron Tanti – Bee-eaters (Qerd in-Nahal) in Malta during migration


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