Hunters dub nature reserve ‘illegal collective punishment’ for poaching

Hunting lobby FKNK reacts to designation of poaching hotspot Qawra Point as nature reserve as ‘collective punishment’

Malta’s hunting fraternity FKNK has dubbed the designation of Qawra Point as a nature reserve, a punishment for hunters due to poaching incidents that take place on the islet and in the nearby waters.

FKNK secretary-general Daniel Xriha claimed the nature reserve designation was “another form of illegal collective punishment against hunters”, and by that reasoning should have been a matter of punitive measures consulted within the Ornis Committee.

“This violates the regulation promulgated after the imposition of the last collective punishment in April 2015, which provides for the recommendation of the Ornis Committee to the minister, before the imposition of any collective punishment.”

Xriha said the BirdLife proposal stop hunting at Qawra Point, which was submitted to the Ornis Committee in 2017 as well as in 2019, had not been accepted by the committee – which is a consultative body that recommends the opening dates for hunting and trapping – due to the FKNK’s objections.

“The phrase ‘illegal hunting’ is fictitious,” Xriha said. “The reality is that there is perfectly legal, sustainable hunting, and unfortunately there are also illegalities, which are maliciously attributed to hunting, similar to what exist in every other sphere of life.”

Xriha said the removal of Qawra Point for hunters would not lead to less poaching. “How is it that now someone has suddenly realised that Qawra Point is an area of ​​ecological importance? Perhaps this importance is enjoyed because of the ever-present presence of the hunters, who have now been deprived from their last ideal piece of land from where they could legally try to take some wildfowl,” Xriha said.

Qawra Point is a small islet is very well placed for migratory birds to find refuge on and with its vicinity to BirdLife Malta’s Salina Nature Reserve, birds coming in or out of the reserve have been targeted by hunters in this area.

The area is close to the residential area of Qawra and many residents have complained about the continuous illegal use of bird callers. Even bathers feel unsafe with hunters aiming their guns at water birds.

BirdLife had in the past presented the government a guardianship deed agreement to take over the area, however this had to be refused until hunting is banned from the area.

As a nature reserve, Qawra Point will now be protected notwithstanding any deliberate or accidental cause that could damage the environs, and the area will banned for vehicles, hunting and trapping, or any other activity that could negatively impact the biodiversity or integrity and landscape of the reserve.

As a nature reserve, there will be also a ban on any loud music or any excessive noise or light, open fires, or any commercial activity without a permit.

Any offences will be punishable first by a €750 fine for each damaged or killed specimen in the area, to a maximum of €5,000; or €1,500 in the case of a second or subsequent offence up to €10,000, or even a two-year prison sentence.