Spring hunting opens with reduced quota, BirdLife insists scientific advice ignored

Spring hunting season for turtle dove and quail to open on 17 April

The government will open the 2016 spring hunting season, subject to special measures in a bid to reduce the impact on turtle dove and quail of the derogation from the EU ban on spring hunting.

The season will be open during a two-week period between 17 and 30 April, a reduction of seven days from the maximum of three weeks allowed under the Framework Regulations.

Permitted hunting hours will be reduced to between two hours before sunrise and until noon on all days, which represents a reduction of two hours on each weekday.

The national spring quota for turtle dove has been reduced from the maximum of 11,000 birds to just 5,000 birds. The 5,000 national quota for quail, as well as the individual daily bag limit of two birds and the maximum season’s bag limit per hunter of four birds, will remain unchanged.

The autumn hunting season for turtle dove will be reduced from five months (previously between 1 September and 31 January of the following year) to the month of September only. This one month autumn hunting season for turtle dove will be subject to the maximum national quota of 7,000 birds.

Only those persons who are issued with a Special Spring Hunting License for 2016 will be permitted to hunt turtle dove and quail during this two week spring season. The government said that the limited spring hunting season will be subject to stringent enforcement, and any non-compliance with applicable conditions and regulations will not be tolerated.

BirdLife reaction

BirdLife Malta said it was disappointed with the decision to open another spring hunting season on turtle doves, when it said the governmnt had documents that indicate that this should not take place anymore.

“Instead of giving value to scientific facts based on research, the government has taken the wrong decision to open another spring hunting season on the turtle dove. In the past year, the turtle dove’s status has gone from bad to worse and is now in a vunerable status. Its numbers have decreased by 30% in 15 years. These are facts that nobody can deny,” BirdLife CEO Mark Sultana said.

BirdLife said that when there is scientific information being neglected year after another, and the government takes a decision purely on a political basis, there may be the need for this decision to be taken by the public.

“The numbers of birds killed and declared by hunters are far from the truth, and measures to be sure on the quotas declared are fictitious and hard to enforce. The government, with the advice of the Wild Birds Regulation Unit within the Parliamentary Secretariat for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights, prefers to believe the declarations made by those who kill the birds while ignoring the scientific facts,” Sultana said.

“Spring hunting is unsustainable and killing birds on their last step from their breeding grounds goes against the values of conservation. Malta remains the only country in the European Union to allow hunting of turtle dove in spring.”