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[WATCH] Malta to be reported to EU for 'de facto tolerance' of illegal trapping

CABS: 'It seems likely that the government is actively preventing police action upon trappers by limiting police resources to nearly zero during peak finch migration' 

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono
20 March 2017, 2:44pm
The Maltese coastline is littered with illegal active trapping sites, CABS has warned
The Maltese coastline is littered with illegal active trapping sites, CABS has warned
 

The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) has announced it will refer Malta to the European Commission for the “de facto tolerance” of illegal trapping.

The Germany-based environmental NGO warned in a statement that trapping on the island has peaked this spring and that the Maltese coastline is littered with hundreds of illegal clap-nets to catch finches and other song-birds.

Indeed, an aerial survey conducted by the environmental NGO last week revealed a record number of 133 active trapping sites along the coast on one single morning. CABS said in a statement that these included 20 illegal sites at Dingli Cliffs being operated directly under the eyes of the tourists visiting the area, as well as sites in the middle of wheat fields, on the roof of Fort Ricasoli in Kalkara, and several in Gozo.  

"This is a shocking number of nets, twice as many compared to last year,” CABS wildlife crime officer Fiona Burrows said in a statement. “Opening the legal finch trapping season in autumn has definetely amplified the amount of illegal spring trapping. With more resources and with an approval to conduct joint operations with CABS the police would be easy to put an end to this within weeks. Instead we see trappers catching thousands of birds with impunity".

Since last week, CABS volunteers have reported nine trappers to the police after filming them actively trapping. On average, the police needed 40 minutes to meet with the volunteers and on no occasion managed to make a direct arrest.

“The majority of the trappers have accomplices who keep watch and inform them as soon as a police vehicle enters the area.” Burrows stated. “Moreover, some trappers use balaclavas, hats and sunglasses to avoid being identified.”

CABS press officer Officer Axel Hirschfeld said the situation proved that Malta is not complying with its claimed "zero tolerance" towards trapping illegalities and that police are not able to do their job due to a huge lack of resources. “Last week we received information that the ALE only have one patrol on duty. It is hard to believe that this is just a planning error. It seems likely that the government is actively preventing police action upon trappers by limiting police resources to nearly zero during peak finch migration.

“The government will have to deal with the repercussions of deliberately protecting poachers from prosecution, which is in defiance of the EU's Birds Directive.

The European Commission has already referred Malta to the European Corut of Justice for opening a finch trapping season in autumn. In a response to the EC’s accusations, the Wild Birds Regulation Unit has claimed that “a  strict supervisory and enforcement  regime  that comprises  an  elaborate  system  of  legal and  regulatory controls and deterrents against violations, as well as a robust field enforcement system on the ground, have been put into place”.

“The report is smoke and mirrors,” Hirschfeld said. “In reality the government is turning a blind eye to illegal trapping during the closed season.”

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono is a journalist at MaltaToday
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