BirdLife Malta has said in a statement that following the direct implications of the recent landmark ECJ finch trapping judgement on the trapping of other species, “to open the trapping season for Golden Plover and Song Thrush tomorrow will be a mistake.”
It added that, “despite the Government’s statement that it has reached an agreement with the European Commission, nobody knows with whom negotiations were conducted.”
Even trapping for these two bird species is subject to EU Infringement Procedures, thus this will risk another European Court case for Malta, said BirdLife. “To think that 1,546 trappers will only catch the quota of 5,700 birds in two months and a half is a farce.”
“Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri, although aware of the possible risk, announced he was taking on board the Ornis recommendation and will open this year’s trapping season following what he described as an agreement reached with the European Commission,” said BlM.
Asked with whom in Brussels this was agreement negotiated, the Government is still yet to reply. In these circumstances, BirdLife Malta said that it has written to the EC requesting more details.
According to BirdLife, “it is a known fact that the Commission never agrees deals on derogations with countries but only asks for justification after these are implemented.”
BirdLife Malta said that it is “satisfied that the Government will be respecting the ECJ decision on finch trapping – an issue which is now done and dusted” – “at this stage BirdLife Malta can only hope that the EC was not taken for a ride with promises by the Maltese Government that it can control the quotas and ensure they are not surpassed.”
Today the Government has published the relevant legal notices. These include the use of a larger net mesh size (increased from 30mm to 45mm) to avoid the capture of smaller birds, BirdLife said that this is “something which still does not eliminate the unselective methodology highlighted as a risk by the European Court since other protected birds of the same size or larger than Golden Plover and Song Thrush could still be caught.”
Another new condition is that nets are removed or covered during the night and when the trapper leaves the site – “a measure which the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) was sceptical on whether it will be sufficient,” BLM said.
The use of electronic bird callers, is another change announced – which will now become illegal. Trapping sites which are found to contain illegal callers will be immediately taken off the register. BirdLife said that additionally, every trapper can now only register one site instead of two, with every station permitted to have a maximum of two nets.
BirdLife Malta continued by saying that it is disappointed that once again the Government will permit Malta’s countryside, including public land and Natura 2000 sites, “to be hijacked by 1,500 people whilst at the same time risking another European Court case.”
The 2018 autumn trapping season will be open from tomorrow, Saturday, the 20th of October, until the 31st of December 2018 (both days included). During these days trapping is permitted every day of the season (weekends included) from two hours before sunrise to two hours after sunset.
BirdLife Malta has advised that any illegal activity during the upcoming trapping season should be reported immediately to the police on 119, and then to BirdLife Malta on 2134 7645/6 or on emergency (out of office hours) number 7925 5697, ideally with a GPS location and photos.
Photograph: Song Thrush by Aaron Tanti