[WATCH] Trapping sites ‘take up area larger than Valletta’, a third of them illegal

BirdLife, CABS survey indicates that 38% of all trapping sites are illegal and that combined area of trapping sites in Malta is larger than Valletta

Trapping sites at a Natura 2000 site in Bahrija
Trapping sites at a Natura 2000 site in Bahrija


Over a third of active trapping sites during this autumn’s trapping season are not registered and illegal, according to survey results.

From a total of 179 trapping sites queried separately by BirdLife Malta and the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS), the Wild Birds Regulation Unit informed them that 68 (38%) were not registered and therefore illegal.

Sites were also reported to the police and the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA), but sites checked by CABS at the end of November were found to be still active, despite the reports that were filed. ERA separately responded that trapping enforcement is the remit of the police force. During the last Ornis Committee meeting, WBRU said that police had up until 15 December only filed three prosecutions for the illegal use of trapping sites, while ERA informed it had taken action on a single site in Gozo.

In a joint statement, BirdLife and CABS said that at least 6,351 registered trapping sites are currently active across Malta, with each site capable of operating up to two clap nets each if in use by a single person. With a minimum size of 38 square metres afforded for each clap net, the total area across Malta and Gozo covered by nets during the current season is at least 482,676 square metres or 48 hectares. Considering the green organisations’ estimates that 38% of sites are not registered as fact, this would mean that trapping sites comprise an area of around 78 hectares. By comparison, this would comprise a total area of nets that is larger than the size of Valletta (55 hectares).

“We have no faith in the WBRU to provide adequate enforcement due to lack of technical competence, and conflict of interest since they also open derogations and issue licenses,” CABS press officer Axel Hirschfeld said.

BirdLife conservation manager Nicholas Barbara similarly accused the WBRU of authorizing a trapping season without the necessary enforcement setup.

“This has led to a lack of strict supervision, with a good proportion of trapping sites being illegal and unregistered and moreover lacking adequate permits to operate within Natura 2000 sites, to the detriment of these areas of ecological importance,” he said. “The respective enforcement has also been left up to the Administrative Law Enforcement and the Gozo police who are also enforcing the hunting season and which are restricted in their resources. Moreover, ERA is seemingly not being asked to intervene by the WBRU.

“There needs to be a central authority with respect to environmental enforcement and not this current division between the WBRU and ERA – with one hand consenting trapping sites in ecologically sensitive sites, which the other authority should be vetting and safeguarding.

“Both trapping derogations are year after year resulting in a vast degradation of priority habitats in Natura 2000 sites, which the authorities appear not being able to enforce or control.”

Trapping seasons for two bird species are currently open until 31 December. The trapping season for finches, for which over 3,132 trappers are registered, is currently being challenged by the European Commission at the European Court of Justice. The trapping season for golden plover and song thrush is permitted by means of a separate derogation for which at least 997 trappers are licensed. The season is subject to an infringement procedure, with the EU issuing two formal warnings between 2011 and 2012. 

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