Maltese hunters claim they will shoot less birds if spring moratorium is lifted

Hunting federation FKNK demands two-week hunting season in spring and pledges not to exceed 7,000 bag limit for turtle dove

Turtle Dove (Photo: David Tipling / Nature Picture Library)
Turtle Dove (Photo: David Tipling / Nature Picture Library)

Malta’s hunting lobby (FKNK) has submitted a four-page memorandum to request the lifting of the moratorium on the hunting of turtle dove in spring.

The report was presented to both the government and the Nationalist Party, and is roughly divided into an entreaty on the cultural importance of hunting in Malta, and a small study on bird populations.

“The FKNK believes that the Maltese government can immediately lift the moratorium in force at present. Additionally, and since the report thoroughly demonstrates that Malta’s turtle dove spring harvest has a nil effect on the breeding populations in Europe’s reference population countries, the government can apply derogation to permit turtle doves hunting already in the spring of 2019. 

“The FKNK urges the government to show its political will and immediately open discussions with the European Commission for a long term solution to be reached on the matter,” the hunters’ federation said.

In its report, the FKNK said that best available data from a 2005-2014 sample had found no negative movement in turtle dove breeding pairs between one year and the next in all reference population countries, “thus establishing that the Malta turtle dove spring harvest has had a nil affect on the respective breeding population size…  this nil effect is noted irrespective of the number of turtle doves taken in the prior spring on Malta, since no negative effect is realised whether the turtle dove spring take in the Maltese islands amounts to as much as 47,763 (2007) or 0 (2008 and 2009).”

The FKNK said that in a second exercise on bird populations, it is possible to derive a derogation from the EU ban on turtle dove hunting in spring.

“The FKNK feels justified and confident to propose the application of derogation to permit the limited hunting of turtle doves at the very least on the mornings/early afternoons of the last fortnight of this spring of 2019.

“In so manner, the already established Malta turtle dove national bag limit of 7,000 birds will not be exceeded… by taking the overall average of fledglings per turtle dove pair (1.31 fledglings), if a spring national bag limit of 3,500 birds (1,750 pairs – also assuming an equal number of males and females and no non-breeding pairs) is imposed and this limit is reached, this would result in a total ‘take’ of 5,793 birds (3,500 taken in spring and 2,293 fledglings), and with the 7,000 birds bag limit mentioned above this would leave an average 1,000 figure of birds that can compose the autumn national bag limit for the 2019 autumn season.”

The FKNK also said the national bag limit would also be reduced from 7,000 to 4,500 (3,500 spring and 1,000 autumn).

“The proposed annual national bag limit consists of 0.05% of the estimated European turtle dove population (BirdLife International, 2015) and 0.15% of the annual total take (EU Commission, 2007) of the 10 EU Member countries where the turtle dove is hunted,” the FKNK said.

It added that the proposed take can be “appropriately reinstated” through FKNK’s captive breeding and release project – a project that only started in 2017, well over 13 years after it had been proposed.