MEPs to request plenary debate on spring hunting in Malta

MEP Anja Hazekamp is calling on the European Commission to open an infringement procedure against Malta to stop the practice of spring hunting

A Member of the European Parliament will request a plenary debate on the enforcement of EU hunting rules in spring in Malta in May.

Anja Hazekamp, MEP for the Dutch ‘Party for the Animals’ yesterday said the Maltese Wild Birds Regulation Unit, which is entrusted with enforcing wildlife rules, had played down accusations that there was no visible enforcement against poaching.

Hazekamp said he will call on the European Commission to open an infringement procedure against Malta to stop the practice of spring hunting. According to Hazekamp, the derogation from the EU Birds Directive, applied by Malta to enable spring hunting of quail, does not meet the required conditions.

She was addressing a roundtable debate at the European Parliament which included the BBC presenter and conservationist Chris Packham, and BirdLife conservation manager Nick Barbara.

“There is concrete evidence that conditions required in the EU Birds Directive are not being fulfilled. Illegal hunting tools, such as electronic bird callers, are being used on a structural basis, and lots of protected birds are being gunned down illegaly every hunting season. The enforcement by Maltese authorities is weak or lacking. Furthermore, this year's spring hunting season for quail has been shifted to coincide with the migration of the Turtle Dove, which increases the risk of this endangered species being shot. All this undermines the objectives of the EU Birds Directive. Europe must step in and protect our birds,” Hazekamp said.

Her call for a plenary debate was supported by Green MEPs Keith Taylor (UK) and Klaus Buchner (Germany).

Malta’s hunting lobby took exception at the claim that there was a “a permanent lack of enforcement” during the spring hunting season, during which the Maltese government derogates from the EU ban on bird hunting.

FKNK president Joseph Perici Calascione said it was “bizarre” that non-Maltese MEPs were initiating “a witch hunt on the smallest EU member state” after the 2015 referendum on spring hunting narrowly secured a victory for supporters of the hunting season.

During the event, the European hunting association’s (FACE) Dr David Scallan, defended Malta’s derogation during the spring hunting season.

“During the last hunting season in Malta, government figures show that officers conducted 32,854 field patrols and 2,351 spot-checks on individual licensed hunters. The 2017 spring hunting season was characterised by the lowest ever number of illegalities disclosed. These figures do not constitute a permanent lack of enforcement in Malta.”

FACE said that all in attendance agreed that there were serious conservation problems to solve in Europe.