CABS calls for end of season as illegal night trapping of plovers ‘out of control’

The Committee Against Bird Slaughter has called for the end of trapping season, pointing to gross misconduct from trappers with regards to illegal night trapping and exceeding quota

Golden Plovers are mostly nocturnal, CABS press officer Axel Hirschfeld said
Golden Plovers are mostly nocturnal, CABS press officer Axel Hirschfeld said

The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) has called for the end of trapping season, pointing to gross misconduct from trappers with regards to illegal night trapping and exceeding the quota.

In a media statement released today, CABS said that bird trappers in Malta and Gozo “use the cloak of night as well as the absence of the ALE to illegally trap thousands of plovers and other waders.”

CABS explained that in the last two weeks, members of the organisation have conducted night patrols between 11:00pm and 4:30am to document the amount of birds trapped outside the allowed hours. “We have mapped 82 active trapping sites where illegal bird callers were used during the night”, CABS Wildlife Crime Officer Fiona Burrows said. “This is more than twice as many as found in 2015”.

CABS criticised the ALE – the police unit responsible for safeguarding against hunting and trapping illegalities – for not having officers on duty on any of the eight nights when the teams were out and tried to report the cases to the unit. “In most of the cases, we were told by police officers to wait until the morning and then report everything to the ALE”, Burrows said. In two cases from Saint Lawrence and Zebbug, CABS said that the local police responded to the report and seized nets, callers as well as plastic decoys. It added that in both incidents the trappers could not be identified as they escaped in the dark when the police arrived.

“In all the other 79 cases, nothing was done by the authorities as the ALE were not on duty, and district police were not equipped to deal with the incidents,” Burrows said.

The organisation went on to say that it had alerted the headquarters police headquarters again early on Sunday morning after birdwatchers found a trapping site in Tal-Qadi near Salina to be active at around 1:30am. “Officers of the Naxxar police station followed the report, but had to wait until ALE were on duty after 5:00am, when the ALE seized a 40-meters-long clap-net as well as several unringed Golden Plovers and a Lapwing used as live decoys. Also in this case the trappers fled and could not be apprehended,” the statement read.

According to CABS, the Maltese government had declared that trapping of Golden Plovers will only be allowed under strict supervision and limited conditions due to the species being of conservation concern in the EU.

“To ensure that only a small number of birds are caught the quota for this year´s season was officially set at 700 Golden Plovers which can be trapped in daytime. Trappers are obliged to report every bird caught by SMS, so that the season can be closed when the bag limit is reached,” CABS said, adding that this bag limit only exists on paper as trappers will never report birds caught illegally in the night.

“Golden Plovers are mostly nocturnal thus making it very easy for trappers to catch whole flocks in the dark. With dozens of trapping sites operating every night it stands to reason that a four-figure number has been already caught illegally since November. The government´s total failure to curb with illegal night trapping has invited poachers to catch much more birds than allowed. The quota for plovers has been exceeded and the season should be closed with immediate effect", CABS press officer Axel Hirschfeld added.

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