BirdLife Malta accuses the Prime Minister of losing the plot on hunting

Autumn hunting season opens on 1 September with enforcement lacking, BirdLife Malta warns

Hunters giving chase on motorbikes in Gozo. Photograph taken on the morning that Black Kites arrived on the island and were gunned down (Photo: BirdLife Malta)
Hunters giving chase on motorbikes in Gozo. Photograph taken on the morning that Black Kites arrived on the island and were gunned down (Photo: BirdLife Malta)

BirdLife Malta has accused Robert Abela of “losing the plot” on hunting as it called on the European Commission to take immediate action against Malta.

The bird conservation group described Malta as a “lawless state” when it comes to hunting and trapping.

In a strongly-worded statement, the second in as many weeks, BirdLife pointed an accusing finger at the Prime Minister for taking “a back seat and letting the Gozo Ministry ignore EU advice and shun the ORNIS Committee, while illegalities are being recorded daily”.

The statement comes on the eve of the autumn hunting season, which opens on 1 September and stretches until January.

There are more than 30 bird species that can be hunted legally but a quota of 500 has been set for turtle doves that are considered a species of concern.

BirdLife said the government’s decision to open the season follows meetings held directly between the FKNK, a hunting organisation, the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) and the Gozo Ministry responsible for hunting. BirdLife said the Ornis Committee, an advisory body, has been totally shunned.

“Hunters are expected to keep to a quota while illegalities have already marred the autumn bird migration period with enforcement absent as a flock of Black Kites sought refuge on the Maltese Islands last week and was targeted by illegal hunting,” BirdLife said.

The decision to go ahead with the hunting of European Turtle-doves was unilaterally taken by the Gozo Ministry without any consultation with the Ornis Committee and the quota was set on the basis of hunting figures reported by FKNK.

The committee has not convened since last May when the FKNK’s CEO Lino Farrugia accosted the head of WBRU Richard Lia during a heated exchange on hunters’ obligation to report their catches during the spring hunting season.

BirdLife Malta said it has still not heard back from the Prime Minister on a letter sent last week in which the organisation asked for the autumn hunting season to be postponed to mid-October. The proposal was to minimise the risk of protected birds being gunned down in September.

“The illegalities that are occurring on a daily basis across the countryside do not augur well for a season that shall see over 10,000 licences active across Malta and Gozo. The enforcement efforts expended are not proportional and government’s impasse on the situation is only sending a message to the hunting community to keep at it,” commented BirdLife Malta Head of Conservation Nicholas Barbara.

BirdLife Malta President Darryl Grima insisted the police were not in a position to enforce the law.

Illegal hunting and trapping incidents are to be reported to BirdLife Malta on 21347646 or 79255697 (outside office hours) or directly to police on 119 asking for the Environmental Protection Unit (EPU).