Trapping season for finches should never be opened again – BLM
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“The trapping season for finches should never be opened again,” BirdLife Malta said in its initial reaction to the clear verdict delivered today by the European Court of Justice.
In a statement, BLM said that this morning’s judgement concluded that “Malta was found guilty of infringing the European Birds Directive when it allowed finch trapping to reopen in 2014.”
“The ECJ clearly states that by adopting a derogation allowing the trapping of seven species of finches, Malta has failed to fulfil its obligations under EU law,” said the NGO.
“The verdict is clear and unequivocal, leaving no room for interpretation,” said BirdLife. In a press conference earlier today BirdLife Malta insisted that in the light of this judgement, the Government should “stop trapping now” and never open the trapping season for finches again, whilst repealing the relevant framework law with immediate effect.
The NGO explained that the court case which was concluded today was initiated by the European Commission in October 2015 after the Maltese Government “ignored a number of official warnings from the European Union which led to the Commission taking Malta to the ECJ.”
It said that this followed the reintroduction of a trapping season a year earlier despite the fact that in 2004, when Malta joined the EU, the Government had agreed to gradually phase out trapping for finches over a five year period leading up to 2009. This was one of the conditions of the Accession Treaty.
BirdLife added that from 2014 onwards, “in the face of several formal warnings and eventually legal action at the ECJ, the Maltese Government continued to open a trapping hunting season for seven species of finch every year. This happened in October 2014, October 2015, October 2016 and October 2017.”
Meanwhile, in July last year, ECJ Advocate General Eleanor V. E. Sharpston delivered an Opinion in the court case, denouncing finch trapping in Malta.
BirdLife Malta has said that “a positive impact of the outcome of the European Court of Justice verdict will be on other wildlife that end up in the thousands of trapping nets which are left in the countryside, apart from the birds themselves.”
It added that, “with the end of trapping, nets will cease to be left unattended, resulting in a death trap to other animals including different bird species, hedgehogs and reptiles.”
According to BLM, today’s ECJ outcome will also have an impact on the illegal trade of finches to be used as live decoys to attract other finches during the open season,, “All this will be brought to an end since the demand for caged finches will cease to exist.”
The NGO remarked that “most of these consignments consisted of finches which were being illegally trapped in Italy and Sicily and smuggled every autumn into Malta to end up being sold in markets.”
This verdict, BirdLife said, which cannot be appealed, is binding and Malta is obliged to abide by its conclusions. “Although Malta was ordered to pay all the court expenses related to the case, it will not incur any further fines if it abides by the ruling.”
BirdLife Malta called on the Government to honour the ECJ verdict and repeal the framework law enacted by the WBRU in 2014 which allows this derogation which conflicts with the principles of the EU’s Birds Directive.
“We also reiterate that this verdict should be considered as a clear and unequivocal case that the European Commission stands strong in the face of unsustainable and damaging environmental practices like trapping which were permitted for political expediency against scientific and legal advice from Malta’s own Attorney General.”
BirdLife Malta, along with its European partners, welcomed the European Commission’s Environment Directorate General take on the matter, “headed by none other than Maltese Commissioner Karmenu Vella.”
BLM concluded by saying that “such situations render valuable the notion of a common European heritage when it comes to wild birds and their habitats, and the implementation of the Nature Directives which support our livelihoods.”
File photograph: Trapping site in Gozo – photo by BirdLife Malta