Government to propose year-round season to hunt birds bred for shooting

Birds bred in captivity could be released in the wild for year-round hunting season, according to WBRU proposal

The Maltese government is expected to propose that hunters be allowed an open season all year round for birds specifically bred to be released in the wild for shooting.

The proposal, moved in the Ornis Committee by the government’s Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) is to amend the law to allow huntable game like the Chukar partridge, to be released in the wild to then be hunted. The law today already allows this but only during hunting seasons. They want to do this activity all year round.

An exception would be made for quail, since a study on quail migration due to the spring hunting season will be carried out between the 15 March and 15 May.

Malta derogates from the EU’s ban on spring hunting by allowing a limited season and catch for turtle dove and quail.

MaltaToday is informed that the proposal could suggest that such hunting be carried out in all public areas or on private land, with permission from the landowner, as well as Natura 2000 sites.

While such events will only be organised by recognised hunting associations, it is not yet clear whether there will be any bag limits, how many hunters will be allowed to participate, and whether any control measures will be in place to ensure none of the captive bred birds are left in the wild to the detriment of agriculture and biodiversity.

This newspaper is informed that the Environment and Resources Authority has expressed concern about such an activity – the ERA will be involved in the permitting of such activities if birds are bred in captivity and not originating from Mediterranean region.

BirdLife Malta told MaltaToday it had voted against all options presented by the WBRU.

“Such an activity is cruel. Letting birds which are not capable of avoiding danger to be ‘sitting ducks’ for individuals who will have a thrill at killing a living bird.

“Having such an activity all year round means the general public will be deprived from a safe and peaceful countryside all year round. It will be a massive disturbance to biodiversity in general especially during breeding season. Such activities will further have legal parameters used as smokescreen by law breaking individuals,” CEO Mark Sultana said.

The releasing of birds bred in captivity always raises concerns due to wild populations and the risk of disease.

Malta has also had problems of enforcement during hunting and trapping seasons, such as illegal shooting of birds during the wild rabbit hunting season.

The amendments to the Wild Rabbit hunting laws announced in May practically already mean that hunters can hunt during nine out of twelve months. Following the five months of the autumn hunting season (September-January) and the three-week spring hunting season for birds (in April), hunters were granted a further additional three months of rabbit hunting season extending from June to August every year.

BirdLife has previously said that hunters who use the disguise of such season to kill breeding birds and other migratory species who migrate over the summer months (such as waders) will now have a free roam. Only last August, a flock of 18 White Storks were wiped out over a week, during the open season for rabbits, which consents hunters the use of guns during such a period.

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