Better data can give long-term plan for bird trapping, PN candidate says

PN candidate Peter Agius meets members of the bird trapping community in private meeting at Mosta community centre

PN MEP candidate Peter Agius has called for a sustainable long-term plan for bird trapping based on the collection of data.

Agius held a meeting with bird trappers on Saturday at Mosta’s civic centre. While the media was not allowed at the discretionary meeting, Agius returned to MaltaToday with comments and proposals that he brought forward to the handful of trappers present. Nationalist MP Edwin Vassallo was also present for the meeting.

Agius said that one of the reasons trapping had been banned by the European Court of Justice last June was because the government had supplied inadequate data. “Trapping should be based on the present bird population realities. In Italy, for example, a derogation is allowed for the killing of 310,000 Chaffinches since the chaffinch population is currently healthy,” he told MaltaToday.

READ MORE EU court declares trapping in Malta illegal, but PN and hunters want new derogation

Agius argued that where birds like the Siskin were in risk of extinction, trapping should be banned for this species and similar species at risk. “It’s important that trapping not be done in contention with the EU, and in the context of full sustainability and with minimal-to-zero impact on the environment,” Agius said, adding that a long-term strategy would be based on data collected with the help of trappers themselves.

Agius stressed the importance of trapping agreements reached without confrontation with the bird conservation lobby. The Birds Directive had banned the trapping of birds in June on the basis that Malta has a high density of licence holders – over 4,000 – and merely 23% of these had undergone individual checks.

The European Court of Justice has ruled that Malta has failed to fulfil the conditions necessary to derogate from the EU’s ban on bird trapping.

The decision has effectively spelt out the illegality of allowing bird trapping in Malta after it was legalised by the Labour government, years after the practice was banned.

The Birds Directive bans trapping of birds but allows it only on very specific conditions. “Malta has not adduced evidence that the derogation at issue is used under strictly supervised conditions within the meaning of the Directive. It considers that in the context of Malta, characterised by a very high density of licence holders, namely over 4,000, and of registered trapping stations, namely over 6,400, the fact that merely 23% of hunters have been subject to individual checks seems inadequate.

“Evidence shows that failure to observe the restrictions relating to authorised catch periods and locations, in particular by trapping inside ‘Natura 2000’ sites, has been rather frequent during the 2014 autumn capturing season,” the ECJ said.

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