127 illegal finch trapping sites spotted from the air – CABS

Massive increase compared to last year, seven trappers apprehended

Bird's eye view of a trapping site, with trapper. Photo: CABS
Bird's eye view of a trapping site, with trapper. Photo: CABS
Seized linnets: police are seen removing trapping nets. Photo: CABS
Seized linnets: police are seen removing trapping nets. Photo: CABS

Aerial survey flights conducted earlier this month revealed a massive increase of illegal finch trapping in spring, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) said.

Despite only 30% of Malta and Gozo being covered by the flight a total of 127 active clap netting sites were photographed. During a similar count last year only 51 sites could be located on 30% of the islands.

CABS said that nearly all of the sites spotted this spring have also been found active in October, when trapping was allowed by the government. “The derogation for trapping in autumn revived the black market for live songbirds and led to a massive increase in prices which in turn also encouraged illegal trapping in spring,” CABS Wildlife Crime Officer Fiona Burrows said. She pointed out that the opening of the trapping season last autumn also led to a massive increase in the smuggling of protected finches from Italy with at least 2,093 birds seized by the authorities in only six months.

In the last two weeks CABS teams have been monitoring the sites on the ground. “When we see somebody trapping we gather video evidence and call the police,” Burrows added.

So far the police have been called 11 times resulting in the apprehension of seven poachers and the seizure of seven pairs of clap nets. Several electronic bird callers were also found and confiscated. A total of 18 live birds – Linnets and Greenfinch – were confiscated. The worst areas for illegal trapping were Dingli (20 sites), Birzebugga (11 sites), Fawarra (9 sites), Zurrieq (8 sites), Bahrija (6 sites), Zejtun (5 sites) and Gozo (32 sites).

“We have been informed that many Maltese trappers go to Gozo to trap, since there is no ALE there,” Burrows said.

According to CABS the average police response time was better than last spring, leading to more trappers being caught on site. However, trapping equipment and decoy birds were only confiscated by police when the trapper escaped.

“The police told us that since autumns open season for finches it is now allowed to possess nets with small mesh size, and possession of ringed finches is also allowed, so confiscation of these items, even if found active in spring, is not always possible,” Burrows said.

This loophole means that since the equipment is still in their possession the trappers have the possibility to continue illegally trapping, CABS said.

CABS announced that it will continue monitoring the sites until the end of finch migration in April. It calls on the general public to report all bird trapping sites found active in spring to the police.

People who want to stay anonymous can also sent their information by email to [email protected].

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