‘Shambles’ of a system: over 6,500 hunters claim they caught just 128 quail

BirdLife decries self-reporting system: “Only 14% of licenced hunters and trappers bothered to participate in recording the number of birds killed”

Considering that there are 10,467 hunters licensed to hunt on land and a further 256 licensed to hunt on sea, statistics indicate that for each three hunters licensed in Malta only one bird was shot
Considering that there are 10,467 hunters licensed to hunt on land and a further 256 licensed to hunt on sea, statistics indicate that for each three hunters licensed in Malta only one bird was shot

Maltese hunters reported a measly 128 quail shot in the season that ran from March to April 2018, when a total of 6,516 were issued with a hunting license for the spring.

The figures suggest that either the vast majority of hunters did not make a catch in the last spring hunting season, or that hunters did not report their catch as they are obliged to do by law.

This emerged from a report issued by the government’s Wild Birds Regulation Unit based on reports made by hunters in 2017 that claim only 3,054 birds in 2017 were shot down while 9,442 were trapped.

Considering that there are 10,467 hunters licensed to hunt on land and a further 256 licensed to hunt on sea, statistics indicate that for each three hunters licensed in Malta only one bird was shot.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” BirdLife’s conservation manager Nick Barbara said. “Only 14% of the licenced hunters and trappers have bothered to participate in recording the number of birds killed last year.”

Barbara said the self-reporting system regulated by the WBRU had been “rendered into a shambles” the day the unit attempted to digitalise it. “It is now clear that the system has failed, with the WBRU being unable to report the number of birds caught in a given hunting season, let alone enforce any limits to the numbers of birds that can be hunted in a season.”

Barbara said the Maltese government will be now using these figures to justify to the European Commission the need to open a spring hunting season next week, “also somehow making an argument that Turtle Doves will not be targeted when the government’s chosen dates for a spring hunting season will be during turtle dove migration.  We yesterday made our case at the European Parliament over the ever-lacking justification to keep a spring hunting season in place, with such conditions.”

READ MORE MEPs to request plenary debate on spring hunting in Malta

Malta derogates from an EU ban on hunting in spring to open the controversial season each year.

The European Court of Justice is also expected to deliver a decision on the opening of a bird trapping season, also banned under EU rules except under strict conditions, which could shutter the practice for good after it was first closed in 2009.

Hunters and trappers are required to report their bags immediately upon making a catch by SMS, allowing for real-time data to be gathered. But in 2017 only 7,729 telephonic reports were made by 2,167 individual callers. This suggests that only a small minority of hunters and trappers reported their catches.  

In 2017, 10,467 persons possessed a hunting license while 4,534 had a general license for trapping. Other licenses exist for hunting in spring, hunting at sea, hunting rabbit and to trap finches in autumn.

Since individual licensees could possess more than one license it is impossible to quantify the exact percentage of the total number of hunters and trappers who reported their catch in 2017.

The reports were collected in a central database which allows the WBRU to monitor the data at any point in time for both scientific and enforcement purposes.

The same report also reveals that 2,918 birds were killed in autumn. This included 1,228 song thrushes and 990 starlings.

Moreover while 2,626 are licensed to kill wild rabbit only eight rabbits were hunted and none were captured with ferrets.

As regards trapping while 4,543 had a general license for capturing live birds only 9,422 birds were actually captured. This suggests that each trapper captured two birds.

 

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