European hunters say Malta trapping numbers too small for ban

European Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation (FACE) says Birds Directive allows Malta to retain trapping season

Seized linnets: police are seen removing trapping nets. Photo: CABS
Seized linnets: police are seen removing trapping nets. Photo: CABS

The European Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation (FACE) has accused the European Commission of ‘not recognising’ the Birds Directive’s allowance for bird trapping, after Malta was referred to the EU’s Court of Justice for illegally derogating from the ban on bird trapping.

The Commission referred Malta to the ECJ for derogating from the ban on finch trapping in 2014, arguing that the reopening of trapping in Malta is not meeting the conditions laid down in the Birds Directive.

But FACE is claiming that the ecological and scientific basis on which Malta permits the live capture of finches relies on “small numbers and strict supervision” – any sample of less than 1% of the total annual mortality of the population in question for those species which are not to be hunted, which the Commission says would have a negligible effect on population dynamics.

“While it is true that the finch species in question have suffered historical declines, more recent figures show a more positive outlook according to the latest Article 12 reporting (2008-2012) exercise under the Birds Directive. Not only do the seven species of finches, whereby ‘live capture’ is permitted in Malta, have large breeding populations in Europe (i.e. in excess of millions), six of them have a ‘secure’ population status,” FACE said.

“Only one of the seven species – the linnet (Carduelis cannabina) – has a ‘declining’ population status, however, it has a breeding population size of between 13,700,000 and 19,100,000 pairs.”

Malta was referred to the ECJ as part of an infringement process commenced by the European Commission over re-opening the trapping season when it had been banned since 2009.

“The decision by the European Commission is not based on conservation imperatives and disregards the cultural requirements of some EU citizens,” FACE said. “The Birds Directive clearly sets out the requirements of Member States in relation to Europe’s birds: ‘Member States shall take the requisite measures to maintain the population of the species referred to in Article 1 at a level which corresponds in particular to ecological, scientific and cultural requirements, while taking account of economic and recreational requirements, or to adapt the population of these species to that level’.”

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