BirdLife: Opening spring hunting season will put Malta back into EU court

BirdLife and hunting lobby to meet in Ornis committee over request to lift moratorium on hunting of turtle dove in spring

BirdLife CEO Mark Sultana
BirdLife CEO Mark Sultana

BirdLife Malta will oppose the lifting of a moratorium on the hunting of turtle dove at a meeting of the Ornis Committee.

Hunters’ federation FKNK claims a two-week season to hunt for a bag limit of 7,000 turtle dove would satisfy any prerequisites to derogate from the EU’s ban on spring hunting.

But BirdLife is insisting that FKNK is not presenting any evidence to support its claim that shooting turtle dove during the migratory season in spring will leave a negative impact. “On the contrary, the European Commission’s species action plan, which aims at saving turtle dove populations, recognises hunting as the reason this species is being decimated, and indeed the plan calls for a prohibition on hunting turtle dove so that its population can recover.”

BirdLife said a two-year moratorium was not enough to establish whether this has had a positive effect on the status of the turtle dove, given that hunters were also out shooting quail in 2018. “The turtle dove population has been falling for 30 years, so a two-year moratorium in Malta without almost any enforcement, will not bring the birds back from extinction,” BirdLife CEO Mark Sultana said.

“The FKNK wants Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to be favourable towards hunters... we think that from day one, Muscat helped hunters win the spring hunting referendum, allowed longer hours for autumn hunting, opened the spring season during migration... even trapping was reopened despite the European Court of Justice’s ruling that Malta had breached the Birds Directive by not banning finch trapping.”

Sultana said BirdLife was sure that the European Commission would not allow any sort of derogation granted before the spring season, and that it would refer Malta to the ECJ if the authorities reopen the spring hunting season.

“There is nothing traditional or cultural about the killing of turtle dove, especially now that it has been declared as a vulnerable species... indeed it will distance Malta from the rest of the EU. The Maltese wat to be able enjoy the beauty of their countryside, not become hostages of hunters.”

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