33 MEPs demand end to Malta's abuse of Birds Directive

33 MEPs from 10 EU countries have signed a letter to the EU Commissioner for the Environment calling for urgent and immediate action to stop Malta’s abuse of Birds Directive and protect migrating birds in spring.

The Turtle Dove is one of Europe’s most iconic birds, but it is also one of the species facing the most drastic declines (Photo: David Tipling / Nature Picture Library)
The Turtle Dove is one of Europe’s most iconic birds, but it is also one of the species facing the most drastic declines (Photo: David Tipling / Nature Picture Library)

33 MEPs from 10 European Union member states have signed a letter requesting an urgent meeting with European Commissioner for the Environment, Janez Potočnik, to discuss the spring hunting of birds on Malta.

The MEPs hailing from, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom, called for immediate and urgent action to stop Malta’s abuse of the Birds Directive by systematically failing to satisfy the conditions of successive spring hunting derogations since 2010.

BirdLife Malta said that Malta is currently the only European Union country to have a recreational spring hunting season and this is achieved by a derogation (exception) of the Birds Directive, which normally protects migratory birds from being hunted during this crucial stage of their life cycle. 

Such derogations have been applied in their current form on Malta since 2010 and the meeting is being requested because MEPs consider that the European Commission is not doing enough to stop Malta from breaking EU rules, by systematically failing to apply the derogation correctly.

“The birds that are targeted by Maltese hunters in spring are turtle dove and quail and there is growing evidence that these birds are in serious decline where they breed in mainland Europe.  It is therefore significant that MEPs from the countries that are the final destination of the birds that fly over Malta have signed the letter to Mr Potočnik,” Steve Micklewright, Executive Director of BirdLife Malta said.

The derogation of the Birds Directive Malta uses to allow spring hunting has very strict conditions whose satisfaction must be demonstrated to the European Commission, but the MEPs state in the letter that, “…the Maltese government has sought to justify the derogation through inaccurate reports and unreliable and even fictional data.”

The letter argues that successive Maltese governments have not been prepared to take the appropriate action at the national level to control spring hunting and so it is time for “urgent and direct intervention by the European Commission to ensure that the abuses of the Birds Directive that take place in Malta are dealt with.”

BirdLife said government is expected to announce the dates of the 2014 spring hunting season in the next few days and it is likely that they will again allow about 10,000 hunters to shoot turtle dove and quail for three weeks. 

“After the removal of control measures and licence restrictions, the hunting season in 2013 was so out of control that the government called in the army to assist the police,”  Micklewright said.

“The MEPs that have signed the letter are united in their view that Malta can no longer allow the hunting of birds that are in serious decline and whose future is in jeopardy because of issues such as hunting in spring.”

 MEPs who wish to can still add their names to the letter to Commissioner Potočnik. To find out how you can ask your MEP to sign up, visit www.birdlifemalta.com and click on the link to write to your MEP.

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