Hunting regulator pulled out of environment ministry and given to hunter minister

New Cabinet sees Wild Birds Regulation Unit pulled out of environment ministry and made answerable to Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri, a hunter • BirdLife calls this 'diabolical' move

Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri is also responsible for the hunting regulator
Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri is also responsible for the hunting regulator

Updated with statements from BirdLife and PN MP Jason Azzopardi

The hunting regulator is no longer answerable to the environment ministry in what is a clear attempt by the new Prime Minister to appease the hunting lobby.

The Wild Birds Regulation Unit has been transferred to the Gozo Ministry where it is answerable to Clint Camilleri, MaltaToday is informed.

Camilleri, a hunter, had the WBRU under his wing when he was parliamentary secretary for animal rights within the environment ministry, in the previous Cabinet.

Sources close to government said it was surreal that the Gozo Ministry, which is responsible for all Gozitan affairs apart from education and health, was now put in charge of the WBRU.

Camilleri has long been criticised by bird conservation groups of appeasing hunters, which form a large constituency in Gozo.

It appears that Prime Minister Robert Abela did not want to ruffle feathers in the hunting community by keeping the WBRU under Camilleri’s ‘safe’ wing despite a pledge to be tough on enforcement.

Bird conservation groups have been critical of the government for its lax attitude towards enforcement of hunting and trapping regulations. This is especially so in Gozo where the presence of the police administrative law enforcement unit is less evident than Malta.

Government has so far not published the full list of ministerial portfolios that show under whose remit the various public agencies and authorities fall.

Cabinet was formed a fortnight ago but Camilleri was shifted to the Gozo Ministry after Justyne Caruana’s resignation last week. He was previously made agriculture and fisheries minister, a post that was then given to fellow Gozitan MP Anton Refalo.

'This is a diabolical move,' BirdLife says

The Prime Minister’s decision to place the hunting regulator under the Gozo Ministry is “diabolical” and purely made for electoral reasons, BirdLife Malta said.

BirdLife CEO Mark Sultana said the decision to transfer the WBRU under Clint Camilleri sent the wrong message.

“The only consideration here is purely electoral,” Sultana said, adding that BirdLife hoped that the Prime Minister would have reacted to environmental concerns by shifting responsibility of hunting and trapping to a ministry that embraced the environment.

The bird conservation group noted that Malta faces infringement proceedings on an EU level on the decision to open the trapping season for songbirds and for its insistence to allow trapping for other species.

Birdlife expressed its hope that the Prime Minister was fully aware of the “subjective decision-making process” in the WBRU and the overwhelming presence of hunters and trappers in the unit.

“BirdLife Malta urges the Prime Minister to reconsider this decision and place the WBRU within a ministry that reflects the aspirations of a nation that considers environment as a priority,” Sultana said.

Government demonstrates clandestine behaviour - Jason Azzopardi

In a reaction, Jason Azzopardi said that the Nationalist Party was condeming the “clandestine behaviour” of Robert Abela in surreptitiously shifting responsibility for the WBRU to the Gozo ministry.

“It is not right and doesn’t make sense that this area has been entrusted to a minister who has a vested interest, as a hunter, is seeing that [the WBRU’s] enforcement doesn’t happen,” Azzopardi said in a statement.

“A government which hides and is caught fooling the public is a malign and malicious government,” he said.

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