BirdLife accuses ‘biased’ hunting regulator of misleading public

In open letter to Prime Minister, BirdLife challenges Wild Birds Regulation Unit to provide scientific data to back up the decision to open this year's spring hunting season 

BirdLife Malta has taken the hunting regulatory body to task for claiming that it had presented scientific justification for this year’s spring hunting season.

“In the absence of a scientific argument, BirdLife Malta once again confirms that the Wild Birds Regulation Unit is acting in a pro-hunting lobby environment, probably leading to misadvice given out to central government,” BirdLife CEO Mark Sultana wrote in an open letter to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. “This puts to question the very mission of the WBRU – of whether it is there to legislate in favour of the conservation of the species, or in favour of pleasing the hunters’ demands to still hunt a species that is on its way to extinction.”

Malta’s spring hunting season will run until 30 April, with the government setting the total turtle dove quota at 5,000 birds. It announced this as a “conservation measure”, referring to a reduction from previous years’ quotas of 11,000 turtle doves.

BirdLife last week revealed that the European Commission has formally asked Malta to justify its decision behind its decision to open a spring hunting season in the first place.

The eNGO said that its request came in light of a recent report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature that shows that European turtle dove populations have plummeted by 80% in the past 30 years.

It added that WBRU head Sergei Golovkin was unable to provide scientific data to back up the decision behind setting a hunting quota of 5,000 turtle doves.

The WBRU reacted by publishing its report on the outcome of the 2015 spring hunting derogation, reports of turtle dove and quail migration studies conducted in spring and autmn in 2015, a scientific assessment of the conservation status of turtle dove and quail, and a detailed analysis of turtle dove and quail bags reported during the previous autumn season, and minutes of Ornis meetings in which they were debated.

However, BirdLife retorted that none of those reports were related to this year’s spring hunting season or provide scientific justification to permit the killing of 5,000 turtle dove.

“We will continue challenging WBRU to put forward the scientific reasoning, if it exists, that justifies the decision.” 

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