Court upholds BirdLife injunction against spring hunting legal notice

Government unable to issue legal notice for hunting of turtle-dive until court hearing that decides whether decision is illegal and against EU Birds Directive

Turtle-doves found in an illegal cage trap in Gozo. Photo: CABS
Turtle-doves found in an illegal cage trap in Gozo. Photo: CABS

BirdLife Malta has filed a request for a prohibitory injunction in Court against the Maltese government, preventing it from issuing the legal notice that effectively would open a spring hunting season for the Turtle-dove, which has a vulnerable status.

The request, signed by lawyers Dr Claire Bonello and Dr Martin Farrugia, was provisionally upheld by Mr Justice Giovanni Grixti.

A similar warrant of prohibitory injunction was filed last year by BirdLife. In this latest injunction, the request is to stop a legal notice from being issued, whereas the 2022 request was filed after the legal notice was published.

"In fact, this was the main technical argument which the State Advocate had insisted upon and that was accepted by Madam Justice Audrey Demicoli, leading her to decide the case against BirdLife at that time,” BirdLife CEO Mark Sultana said.

Since that 2022 request, the Maltese government has received direct communication from the European Commissioner for environment, along with a new infringement process that was initiated by the European Commission against Malta, with regards to the spring hunting season for the Turtle-dove. These warnings were issued since the vulnerable status of the Turtle-dove does not allow for any derogation from the EU’s Birds Directive’s ban on hunting this species in spring.

“There is no shadow of doubt that the spring hunting season on Turtle-doves in Malta goes against the EU’s Birds Directive,” Sultana said. “The Directive is very clear that hunting in spring is illegal, while the fact that the status of the Turtle-dove is Vulnerable – as declared by the IUCN and accepted by the EU – adds more value to the need for each EU Member State to protect it whilst migrating to its breeding grounds.”

BirdLife is insisting that Maltese law cannot go against the EU’s Directives. “The local courts are therefore also responsible to safeguard the EU’s directives,” Sultana said.

The hearing on the prohibitory injunction, which will decide whether it should be upheld, takes place on 18 April.