BirdLife Malta has said today that the 2017-2018 autumn hunting season which came to a close yesterday, was the “worst one for illegalities in the past five years.”
Moreover, the Ornis Committee has given the go-ahead for the next spring hunting season, with dates and parameters to be set by end of month, BLM said in its statement.
There was a total of 62 known illegally shot protected birds retrieved during the 5-month season, and BirdLife argued that, “this year we had a situation where hunting illegalities were on the rise whilst enforcement was again very low.”
49 were recovered by BirdLife Malta whilst the other 13 were received or collected by the police.
The NGO added that following the 43 shot birds collected by BirdLife Malta during the 2013-2014 autumn hunting season, numbers had gone down to 21 the following autumn, and down again to 17 during the 2015-2016 autumn hunting season and again in the 2016-2017 season.
“This year’s number stands in stark contrast to previous years, reaching a total of 49 which is higher than five years ago,” stated BirdLife Malta.
It also pointed out that,”this autumn hunting season was also particularly bad for the exceptional use of electronic callers with little or no enforcement on the matter.
“Even though, ironically, in its annual report for 2017 which has just been issued, the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) mentions only six bird callers being seized during the whole season.”
BirdLife went on to say that the Administrative Law Enforcement (ALE) police unit – another crucial stakeholder for enforcement of hunting illegalities – is still “very much understaffed and under-resourced,” meaning it is unable to respond to all of BirdLife Malta’s reports handed over to the police throughout the year.
BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana commenting on the figures for 2017, stated that these clearly show that when the Government “opted to take a clear stand on illegalities as demonstrated in 2015 when the spring season was closed prematurely, the illegalities went down.”
“This is because hunters felt that abuse of the law would not be tolerated. Unfortunately, in the last two years, the Government failed to keep this momentum allowing a significant amount of illegal hunting to re-emerge,” he added.
The Ornis Committee has already given its go-ahead for the upcoming spring hunting season. In its last meeting held on the 24th of January 2018 the committee agreed to discuss the parameters of the next spring hunting season for Common Quail, with BirdLife Malta being the only entity voting against, it said.
The spring hunting of Turtle Dove is still subject to a moratorium and there will be no hunting permitted for this vulnerable species.
BirdLife said that the next Ornis Committee meeting is scheduled for the 21st of February and is expected to set the parameters and dates of the next spring hunting season whilst respecting the moratorium placed on the hunting of the declining Turtle Dove which came into effect with Government Notice 538 dated 27th May 2016.
BirdLife Malta concluded by saying that it remains adamant that spring hunting should stop, “however, there is a concern that this year’s spring season dates will coincide with the known peak period for the endangered Turtle Dove and could potentially serve as a smokescreen for the illegal killing of this species despite the moratorium.”