“Considerable difference in handling of trapping cases in Gozo” – CABS
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The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) has said in a statement, that “while the European Court of Justice is expected to decide any moment about the future of finch trapping on Malta, poachers continue to trap protected bird species during the closed season.”
CABS Press Officer Axel Hirschfeld said that he has observed a considerable difference in handling of the cases between the law courts on Malta and Gozo. “The chances of a trapper being acquitted or receiving a much reduced fine are more likely if the case is heard on Gozo.”
He added that CABS finds it most shocking that this year alone several cases have been acquitted by the court in Victoria despite CABS video footage clearly showing the defendants operating the nets and using live decoy birds in the closed season.”
Hirschfeld remarked that, “we have learned that some cases were acquitted because CABS members could not attend court. The court was informed via the lawyer that they were unable to attend, however the magistrate decided to hear the cases without the key witnesses and later acquitted the defendants.”
According to Hirschfield, “other Gozo cases were due to be heard in September, as stated on the summons, but on investigating had been heard in July instead without CABS members being informed about the new date.”
CABS said that, “yesterday in the Gozo court, a finch trapper was fined €500 for illegally trapping finches during the closed season in spring. The case was filmed and reported to the police by a CABS team monitoring the countryside near Qala in March 2017.”
The court also decided that the trapping and the hunting licence of the defendant are being suspended and his hunting weapons confiscated for two years. “Three CABS members were summoned as witnesses and attended court from abroad, however none were asked to testify,” CABS said.
CABS stressed that in this case “the travel expenses for the foreign witnesses, who are called by the court, are three times higher than the actual fine.”
In the last six weeks members of the organisation have conducted a special investigation to combat the ongoing illegal trapping of protected waders and other migratory birds on Malta. “Despite the trapping season being closed, the teams discovered a total of 10 trapping sites with active clap nets since mid August,” said CABS.
According to CABS most of the sites were located in the south, with four very large sites found in the fields around Zurrieq and Safi alone.
CABS Wildlife Crime Officer Fiona Burrows said, “Nearly all of them use illegal bird callers which sometimes can be heard over a distance of kilometres,” adding that two trappers were caught red-handed by the ALE after CABS alerted them. Two sets of clap nets and two illegal bird callers were seized as evidence, she said.
CABS said that two men are expected to be taken to court for illegal trapping of protected Oystercatchers, Redshanks and Dotterels.
The other 8 sites have been reported to the police with their exact locations and photos of the nets. CABS said that it is not yet known what the authorities have done to convict.
According to CABS its efforts have led to “at least 21 successful prosecutions for illegal bird trapping in the last three years with fines ranging from 500 to 7000 Euros and a total of 16 trapping licences being revoked by the courts.”
“These are only the cases we know about because our team members were summoned as witnesses by the magistrate,” Axel Hirschfeld said.
Photograph by CABS – Qala trapping case – © Craig Redmond/Committee Against Bird Slaughter