Poachers in Malta being given free rein to trap during closed season, activists say

German bird conservationists CABS says illegal bird trapping ‘up by 35%’ as 13 poachers caught red-handed

Police officers and a bird trapper removing his nets in Santa Lucija (Gozo) in March 2018 (Photo: CABS)
Police officers and a bird trapper removing his nets in Santa Lucija (Gozo) in March 2018 (Photo: CABS)

Poor enforcement has led to significant increase of illegal bird trapping in spring, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) said.

Even though the trapping season is closed in spring an aerial survey conducted this month by the German bird conservationists has revealed more than 180 active trapping sites on Malta and Gozo.

“Compared to 2017, when 133 active sites were counted in a similar survey, this equates to an increase of about 35 per cent in just one year,” CABS wildlife crime officer Fiona Burrows said.

CABS criticised that the observed increase is a direct consequence of the Maltese government's failure or refusal to set up an effective and proactive enforcement system during the closed season.

“With enough resources and clear instructions from above, the police could easily arrest dozens of trappers per day. Instead it seems that the responsible persons within the government have decided to look the other way and give the poachers free reign to trap birds during the closed season,” spokesperson Axel Hirschfeld said.

CABS said it had deployed a team to monitor selected sites with video cameras and telescopes during the last 10 days.

“As soon as enough evidence was collected we called in the police who at least managed to catch 13 illegal trappers red-handed,” Burrows said, adding that ALE officers on Malta were ordered not to confiscate live decoys used despite being key pieces of evidence.

In contrast to their colleagues, police officers on Gozo however seized all nets and several live decoys including nine Linnets, four Greenfinches, two Chaffinches, two Serins and one Hawfinch.

The eNGO added that the government’s Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) has been consistently unreachable by phone when assistance has been needed.

CABS will continue its surveillance activity on Malta and Gozo until the end of April.

“The European Commission and the European Court of Justice, which is expected to rule about the future of finch trapping on Malta soon, will be informed about all results of the operation including the massive lack of proactive enforcement observed by the CABS activists,” the group said.


More in Nature