Hunting and trapping illegalities mar spring bird migration

The start of the spring bird migration over Malta is mired with various illegalities, including the shooting of two ospreys, BirdLife Malta says

Two Osprey were shot down by hunters in Gozo and Delimara (Photo: BirdLife Malta)
Two Osprey were shot down by hunters in Gozo and Delimara (Photo: BirdLife Malta)

Hunters shot down two ospreys in Gozo and Delimara as the start of the spring bird migration was marred with hunting and trapping illegalities, BirdLife Malta said.

The bird conservation group said yesterday’s weather forced various ospreys to seek refuge by flying towards Malta and Gozo. The birds of prey are protected.

BirdLife said two of the birds did not make it to their feeding grounds in mainland Europe because they were shot down by poachers.

The organisation said stuffed bird collections are the main reason for such rampant illegalities in Malta, mainly because a system that was in place to check all the lists of stuffed birds in collections stopped being updated once the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) took over this remit.

The NGO said after two amnesties given by previous governments, those that had protected stuffed birds registered their collections with the Environment Department and a process to send qualified people to check these collections commenced. "It was immediately evident that most collectors declared larger numbers than what they actually had. The reason for this was so that until they had their collections verified, they could keep on adding more birds to their collections as per their registered list," the NGO said. 

BirdLife Malta said it is still happening and has asked the WBRU to acquire help from the Environment & Resources Authority’s professional personnel that have the qualifications to do this work for a number of years now.

Protected finches confiscated by police (photo: BirdLife Malta)
Protected finches confiscated by police (photo: BirdLife Malta)

Another illegal activity witnessed in the past weeks was illegal finch trapping, which BirdLife Malta said has never been so rampant during springtime. The NGO said this was mainly due to the message sent by the Government that it intends to reopen a finch trapping season in autumn against the will of the European Commission.

"The birds being trapped right now will be sold to those that need live decoy birds in autumn. Through the good work of BirdLife Malta and Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) teams, over 140 finches have been confiscated by police since the beginning of March, with most of them being released back into the wild while others are being rehabilitated and will be released shortly once they gain back their strength," the NGO said. 

The NGO also commended the efforts being shown by the Environmental Protection Unit (EPU). It is evident that the police officers within EPU seem to be willing to achieve results in bird-protection law enforcement.

“Unfortunately, while the Government is challenging the European Commission and reopening both a spring hunting season and a finch autumn trapping season, we can only expect the worse for migrating birds. The respect of the law from hunters has dwindled to nothing while hunting lobby organisations have lost control of their members. This will only lead to thousands of protected birds being shot and trapped illegally and will inevitably place Malta once again in a defensive position at the European Court of Justice,” BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana said.