Updated: Galdes refutes calls to close trapping season: ‘Illegal electronic callers on the decline’

BirdLife Malta has reiterated the call made last week by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) to close the trapping season for Golden Plover due to alleged illegal use of electronic callers

The quota of 700 Golden Plovers allocated for this year’s trapping season has not yet been reached
The quota of 700 Golden Plovers allocated for this year’s trapping season has not yet been reached

Parliamentary secretary for animal rights Roderick Galdes has dismissed BirdLife Malta’s calls to close the trapping season for golden plover after allegedly widespread trapping activity through the illegal use of electronic callers.

BirdLife earlier warned that it has been receiving frequent reports from the public on the use of electronic callers to trap golden plover, with little or no police action taken to control them, on a daily basis over the course of November and December.

“Questions made to the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) during an Ornis Committee meeting held last Thursday have revealed that although there has been a reported presence of 30 to 35 enforcement officers in the field during the trapping season, only 11 fines for the use of electronic callers were issued over the past four months of hunting and trapping,” BirdLife Malta’s statement read.

However, Galdes retorted by claiming that that the illegal use of bird callers has declined by over 60% in the past four years – from 72 known cases in 2012 to 29 this year.

“Since 2013, field enforcement has more than doubled over the 2012 levels, and therefore one cannot reasonably argue that the decrease in disclosure of illegal bird callers is due to lack of enforcement action,” he said. “Moreover, although it is logistically difficult to locate and dismantle such illegal electronic devices at night, the authorities nonetheless do their utmost to cooperate with NGOs to locate and disarm these devices. Last year, several night patrols were conducted in the autumn, and at least on one occasion a joint patrol was held between the Malta Police Force and CABS volunteers that led to the location and dismantlement of 15 illicit devices.

“Although this is very demanding on the limited enforcement resources, the police is planning such extra night operations that will take place over the next few days during peak golden plover migration.”

In its statement, BirdLife added that it has been common practice throughout the trapping season to have these callers automatically set on in the countryside at various trapping locations, with these being switched off in the presence of police or members of the public.

During last Thursday’s Ornis Committee meeting, WBRU also confirmed that the quota of 700 Golden Plovers allocated for this year’s trapping season has not yet been reached, despite birdwatchers claiming to have witnessed one of the most exceptionally good years for migration of this species.

“While the use of electronic callers is by far unregulated, these devices are very effective at attracting these birds to a trapping site, and have become part and parcel of our rural countryside,” BirdLife Malta’s conservation manager Nicholas Barbara said. According to BirdLife Malta, this goes against the spirit of strict supervision demanded by this derogation which should regulate each trapper to trap up to six birds after which trapping should be halted.

Galdes and BirdLife also offered contrasting views on the decriminalisation of the use of electronic bird callers in 2013, resulting in would-be culprits facing the prospect of a €250 fine instead of appearing in court.

“Although this was done with the intention of making enforcement more effective, it seems that it is leading to precisely the opposite effect,” BirdLife Malta warned.

However, Galdes insisted that the new administrative fines system has proved to be “incomparably more effective” in addressing use of illegal bird callers. 

More in Nature