Spring hunting dates announced, with reaction from BirdLife Malta

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Spring hunting dates announced, with reaction from BirdLife MaltaThe Government has announced that the 2018 spring hunting season will be open for quail only, between Sunday, the 1st and Saturday, the 21st April, both dates inclusive, from two hours before sunrise until noon.

The government said in a statement that theses dates were based on Ornis Committee recommendations, and upon considering all applicable legal and conservation parameters.

Only those who are issued with a Special Spring Hunting Licence for 2018 will be permitted to hunt for quail during this season.

There is a new procedure to apply for a Spring Hunting Licence. Hunters will no longer need to apply for this Special Licence at MaltaPost, as in previous years, but can apply by phone number 77070009, which is listed in their green hunting booklets.

The government added that eligible hunters are to specifically call this number from the mobile number associated with their registration with the Wild Birds Regulation Unit for the general hunting licence.

It added that Hunters whose mobile number has changed must inform the Wild Birds Regulation Unit before applying for a special licence by not later than noon on Friday, the 16th of March.

Calls made from a landline or from any other number that is not registered on your name will not be accepted.

To apply for a special licence, hunters must dial 77070009 at any time til noon on Wednesday, the 21st of March, both dates inclusive. Calls made before or after this period will not be accepted and the application system will be closed, the government said.

In order to obtain this special licence, hunters must have, at the time of application: Valid general licence to hunt birds on land (licence card issued by WBRU); Paid-up membership in a recognised hunting organisation for 2018-green booklet stamped by your hunting organisation; Valid third party liability insurance cover for 2018 and Valid permit to carry a firearm for hunting of birds on land issued by the Police.

Once the system accepts an application, the hunter will receive an SMS acknowledgement with a personalised special licence code.

The government said that hunters are requested to keep this confirmation text message on their mobile phone for the entire duration of the spring hunting season. “Hunters will also receive their special licence by post before the opening of the season and are requested to read all licence conditions carefully and abide by these conditions accordingly.”

The national hunting bag limit for this season has been established at 5,000 quails. “Hunters are not to exceed the daily bag limit of 5 quails and a seasonal bag limit of 10 quails per hunter,” the government said.

“They will be required to report their catch by calling the telephone number specified in the special license and follow instructions given through voice prompts.”

The government also reminded all hunters that the moratorium prohibiting hunting of the turtle dove in spring is still in place. “Any shooting of turtle doves or any species other than quail is strictly prohibited and anyone caught breaking the law will be subject to criminal procedures and high penalties.”

“The limited spring hunting season will be subject to stringent enforcement, including spot-checks. Any non-compliance with applicable conditions and regulations will not be tolerated,” it added.

Statement in reaction from BirdLife Malta

BirdLife Malta said in a statement that the decision by the Government to extend the spring hunting season will coincide with the peak migration of the Turtle Dove.

“Though the original proposal by the Ornis Committee was until the 25th of April, the decision to open the hunting season until the 21st still is a gamble not worth taking,” BLM said.

BirdLife added that, “he extension until the 21st of April will leave the Turtle Dove as a protected species at enormous risk. The Government has ignored the suggestion of its own agency – the Environment & Resources Authority (ERA) – which suggested the 15th of March to the 4th of April for the limited shooting of Quail.”

BLM remarked that “the Government is aware that without proper enforcement across Malta and Gozo, it is opening itself to infringements procedures from the EU Commission.”

According to the NGO, “hunters in Malta and Gozo have already been seen clearing their hunting hides which cannot be used for Quail hunting but are specifically used for Turtle Dove hunting.”

“Signs with no legal basis asking people not to trespass can also be seen all over the countryside. Furthermore, to add insult to injury, trapping sites have been revisited by trappers for the spring migration of finches even though this has been illegal for years.”

“The Government has an obligation to the wider public when it comes to environmental protection in the country,” BLM said, “while it states it will not tolerate any illegalities, when push comes to shove it knows that enforcement across Malta and Gozo is limited and difficult,” it added.

BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana said that the hunting extension would be closely monitored. “We have tried our very best in being constructive and avoid confrontation but the Government’s gamble goes to show Dr. Muscat and his parliamentary secretary Clint Camilleri – a hunter himself – do not have the courage to do what is needed and stand their ground.”

BirdLife Malta concluded by saying that it will be “closely monitoring the season and illegalities. It cannot be that our dwindling countryside continues to be the sole domain of hunters and trappers. The government must enforce the law and ensure that hunters do not kill protected species. ”

“Photo taken on Monday,” BirdLife said, “of a site near Gnejna with a hunting hide for Turtle Doves” (Photo by BirdLife Malta)

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