BirdLife Malta in a statement, has accused the Government of “ignoring the Environment & Resources Authority’s advice and scientific data,” and instead is, “bending over backwards to accommodate the hunting lobby,” over spring hunting.
It argued that yesterday’s decision by the Ornis Committee to move this year’s spring hunting season dates backwards to the period between the 5th and the 25th of April, will coincide with the peak migration of Turtle Dove.
This is a species which is protected all over Europe, “supposedly also in Malta through a moratorium on the hunting of this vulnerable species during spring,” said BLM.
According to BirdLife, “this effectively means that this year’s spring hunting season is one which has been designed to target the protected Turtle Dove.”
The spring hunting season in 2017 – which due to the moratorium was opened only for Quail – was moved earlier (from the 10th-30th of April to the 25th March-14th of April) in order to avoid overlapping with the Turtle Dove’s peak migration period, while still being satisfactory for those hunting Quail.
“The Government has given in this year,” BirdLife said, and is “bending over backwards to accommodate the hunting lobby which has been putting enormous pressure to have a spring hunting season for Quail during the peak migration of the protected Turtle Dove.”
It added that “this move will allow a smokescreen for hunters to have a go at hunting Turtle Doves. This is in contradiction to the European conservation efforts to safeguard this protected species.”
BirdLife also said that, advice by the ERA and relevant scientific studies “have fallen on deaf ears.” This is despite ERA substantiating the scientific data, declaring its position categorically against moving the dates backward and going further to propose that the season be moved a week ahead, from the 15th of March till the 4th of April, specifically to avoid Turtle Dove migration, said BLM.
The Ornis Committee recommendation to open a spring hunting season for Quail – up to a maximum quota of 5,000 – for the period of the 5th-25th of April (both days included), “will now fall onto the Minister for Environment’s lap,” who will have to take the final decision on the chosen dates.
However BirdLife pointed out that, “as is now customary, these dates will undoubtedly be approved as once again Ornis remains a rubber stamp to whatever the Government wants and decides, with political considerations being at the forefront of most decisions, rather than scientific facts.”
BirdLife argued that scientific data produced by the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) and BirdLife Malta shows that there is enough Quail migrating between the last week of March and mid April for a sufficient hunting season.
“The Carnet de Chasse, which is what hunters themselves declared, also shows that a season between the last week of March and mid April would have been sufficient for them to catch the quota of 5,000 Quail. In 2017 during this three-week period over 12,000 Quail were registered as caught.”
BirdLife Malta has reiterated its position that it does not agree with any hunting during spring whilst stating that enforcing the Turtle Dove hunting moratorium this spring is going to be close to impossible.
BirdLife Malta President Darryl Grima, Secretary General Saviour Balzan and CEO Mark Sultana explained that enforcement in 2017 was “inefficient and negligible, leading to the worst year in the last five years when it comes to illegally shot protected birds.”
They also warned that with this change in dates the Government is risking further environmental infringements by the European Commission, who had originally shelved infringement procedures only after the moratorium on the hunting of Turtle Dove was declared.
BirdLife Malta stated that they will be submitting an extensive report to the European Commission with “all the scientific facts and will be documenting and monitoring all illegalities to forward to the Commission accordingly, asking for immediate action.”
BirdLife Malta officials stated that it has been under “serious pressure to reconsider opting for another referendum and this option will be considered in order to mobilise the people who care about nature and the environment once again.”
BirdLife Malta insisted that the “Government should realise that the man in the street, families and youths, irrespective of their political beliefs, care about nature and the environment. We will be urging these people to speak out and to express their concerns in all possible ways.”