Update 3 – ECJ judgement rules that trapping in Malta is illegal
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Update 3 with reactions from CABS, Clint Camilleri, KSU and AD below – The European Court of Justice has this morning delivered its judgement on live trapping in Malta.
It has declared that, by adopting a derogation regime allowing the live-capturing of seven species of wild finches, Malta has “failed to fulfil its obligations under the European Wild Birds Directive.”
The judgement noted that “by adopting a certain derogation regime allowing the capture of seven species of wild birds, Malta has failed to fulfil its obligations under EU law.” The decision cannot be appealed.
The ECJ judgements said that “an EU Directive provides that Member States must take the requisite measures to establish a general system of protection for several bird species.!
” Nevertheless, Member States may derogate from that obligation where there is no other satisfactory solution, to permit, under strictly supervised conditions and on a selective basis, the capture, keeping or other judicious use of certain birds in small numbers,” said the ECJ.
It added that “in 2014 and 2015, Malta adopted several measures which enable it to benefit from the derogation laid down in the Directive. Those measures authorise the capture of seven species of finches by means of traditional nets (‘clap-nets’), subject to compliance with certain conditions.”
The Commission said that it considers that the derogation regime laid down by Malta in the course of those two years “does not meet the conditions of the Directive. It therefore decided to bring an action for failure to fulfil obligations against that Member State before the Court of Justice.”
It said that in today’s judgement, the Court rules, first, that the 2014 and 2015 measures authorising the autumn trapping of finches “do not comply with the Directive since they do not contain any reference to the absence of another satisfactory solution.”
The Court also recalls its case-law according to which the Member States may authorise actions affecting the protected species only on the basis of decisions containing a clear and sufficient statement of reasons which refers to the conditions of the Directive.”
The Court finds that “the declarations at issue do not contain such a statement. In addition to the fact that they do not contain any reference to the absence of another satisfactory solution, they do not refer to the technical, legal and scientific reports submitted to the Ornis Committee, nor to the recommendations based on that information.”
It went on to say that “second, the Court concludes that Malta has not complied with the condition of the Directive according to which the permitted derogation must concern only ‘small numbers’ of birds.”
The Court stated that the “condition relating to trapping in ‘small numbers’ cannot be met if the trapping of birds authorised by way of derogation does not ensure the maintenance of the population of the species concerned at a satisfactory level.”
The Court also considered that “Malta has not adduced sufficient evidence to show that that condition is met.”
In that regard, the Court went on to say that it noted in particular that, “according to a 2007 study by the non- governmental organisation BirdLife Malta, trapping in Malta is so intensive that only a handful of each of the common finch species regularly breed on the islands, whereas they breed in high numbers in other areas of the Mediterranean.”
Moreover, the Court pointed out that, “even though Malta claims to have taken into account only reference populations from countries with stable or increasing populations, Malta’s selection of those populations has not always been consistent with the stated methodology.”
The Court continued by saying that “it is thus apparent from the Maltese authorities’ technical memoranda that those authorities took into account, for the purpose of the 2015 autumn capturing season, reference populations in decline or whose conservation status was not known.”
Third, the Court said it noted that, “where the condition of trapping in small numbers is not met, recreational trapping of birds cannot be considered judicious.”
Furthermore, the Court said it also considers that the condition that only the selective live-capturing of finches can be permitted is not met either. “In particular, given that the Maltese authorities have notably admitted the existence of ‘by-catch,’ the Court pointed out the non-selective nature of the method of capture using nets.”
Finally, the Court finds that Malta has “not adduced evidence that the derogation at issue is used under strictly supervised conditions within the meaning of the Directive.”
It considered that “in the context of Malta, characterised by a very high density of licence holders, namely over 4 000, and of registered trapping stations, namely over 6 400, the fact that merely 23% of hunters have been subject to individual checks seems inadequate.”
Furthermore, the Court said that “evidence shows that failure to observe the restrictions relating to authorised catch periods and locations, in particular by trapping inside ‘Natura 2000’ sites, has been rather frequent during the 2014 autumn capturing season.”
Consequently, the Court said it “rules that Malta has failed to fulfil its obligations under the Directive.”
“Muscat´s trapping plan was illegal,” says CABS
The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS)in a statement, has welcomed today´s decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that the opening of the trapping season for finches on Malta is a clear breach of the EU´s Bird´s Directive.
CABS President Heinz Schwarze said, “we are glad that the institutions of the EU finally showed their teeth and confirmed that Joseph Muscat´s plan to reintroduce finch trapping on Malta was in fact illegal.”
CABS called upon the Prime Minister “to accept the ruling and to prepare the trapper´s community for a future without trapping.”
“Now the Government has to face the reality and start to develop plans for a strict supervision of a future finch trapping ban,” Schwarze said.
He added that the police in such a case will need extra resources to deal with illegal trapping in the next years.
The German-based NGO announced that it is planning to conduct a large scale operation against finch trapping on Malta this autumn.
CABS said, “we are currently mobilising all available resources to ensure that we have a maximum number of teams in the field during peak finch migration in October and November.
“If all parties pull together finch trapping will soon go down where it belongs: In the history books,” CABS Wildlife Crime Officer Fiona Burrows said.
Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri
Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights, Clint Camilleri, said on a post on his facebook page, that he is “very disappointed with ECJ decision against the application of a finch trapping derogation, The Malta Government is now evaluating the sentence from a legal perspective.”
The Government in a statement said that, “in the last few years it has done its utmost to defend this tradition and open the live capturing season of finch birds in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.”
The Government added that it “dedicated all possible resources to defend its case in the best possible way, hand in hand with the organisations that represent trappers, and put forward the case in front of the European Courts to safeguard the tradition.”
KSU deplores “the deceptive and alarmist arguments brought up by BLM”
Kaccaturi San Ubertu KSU, responding to today’s ECJ judgement, has said that it “deplores the deceptive and alarmist arguments brought up by BirdLife Malta in relation to the trapping of finches.”
In a statement the KSU said that, “based on such arguments the traditional trapping of certain species of birds as currently practiced has been termed illegal following today’s ruling by the European Court of Justice.”
KSU stated that this “blatant manipulation of fact influenced the European Court and that its verdict does not reflect the reality of a controlled and limited practice of a substantial part of Maltese society that have the greatest respect and love of birds. that should be strengthened and not punished.”
KSU also went on to say that it is, “another threat to our cultural traditional practices as a result of manipulation of fact and an incessant crusade to ban hunting and trapping in these islands.”
KSU called upon all hunters and trappers “to note all the relevant factors that brought about such losses and to play a more active part in decisions that effect our future.”
KSU concluded by saying that it will “use all means at its disposal to analyse the verdict in respect of any issues noted by the Court and in line with its purpose to defend our practices it will act accordingly.”
AD welcomes Europen Court’s decision – trapping declared illegal
Alternattiva Demokratika, in a statement has welcomed the European Court’s decision which declares finch trapping illegal.
Simon Galea, AD spokesperson on agriculture and rural development said:”This decision by the European Court of Justice means that our natural environment and Malta’s flora and fauna will be afforded more protection.”
Galea added that the,”Government took trappers for a ride. It peddled the myth that trapping could continue unabated. Fortunately for those who love their country and its natural environment, the ECJ has confirmed what we knew all along: trapping is illegal.”
He concluded by saying that, “it is now the Government’s duty to see that trapping is not allowed through proper and effective enforcement.”
File photograph: BirdLife Malta