BirdLife Malta welcomes closure of hunting season

BirdLife Malta calls for review of autumn hunting rules as it welcomes the decision by government to temporarily close the autumn hunting season

Injured Honey Buzzard, shot at Buskett
Injured Honey Buzzard, shot at Buskett

BirdLife Malta has welcomed the decision by the government to temporarily close the autumn hunting season until Friday 10th October.

“The government has repeatedly stated that it will not tolerate the illegal hunting of protected species of bird. Today’s announcement shows the government are prepared to take appropriate steps when hunters behave without any respect for the law, as they have done in recent days,” BirdLife Malta Executive Director Steve Micklewright said.

The announcement follows the high profile shooting of rare white storks as they migrated over Malta this week. 

“Anyone who witnessed the storks roosting on cranes in Marsa, or flying in formation over Malta, cannot fail to have been impressed by the beauty of these incredible birds; that is except for those hunters who see these birds as an object that they must kill,” Micklewright added.

However the killing of the storks is just the tip of the iceberg as far as illegal hunting in Malta is concerned. 

“BirdLife and CABS have witnessed a wide range of types of bird being illegally targeted by hunters in the past few days alone, including osprey and lesser kestrel. The closure of the season will enable better enforcement because legal hunting cannot now be used as cover for illegal activities.”

While welcoming the government’s decision BirdLife Malta has called for an urgent review of the regulations surrounding autumn hunting and the decision-making processes that create the regulations, stating that the decision to remove the 3pm curfew on hunting is a clear demonstration that the current system does not work. 

“Following pressure from hunters, proposals from the Wild Birds Regulations Unit and consideration by the Ornis Committee, the government decided to permanently remove the 3pm curfew on hunting at this time of year.  The government was presented with biased reports that downplayed the effectiveness of the curfew on preventing illegal killing of protected birds.  The illegal hunting of protected species has escalated as a result,” Micklewright said.

 BirdLife Malta also called for the immediate reform of the Ornis Committee: “The Ornis Committee should contain more voting experts in bird conservation and hunting, and the reports it receives for consideration by government officials should be objective and based on scientific evidence, enabling balanced recommendations to be made.”

The review of hunting regulations should also consider the method by which hunters report the birds that they shoot.  This is currently done through a Carnet de Chasse booklet.

“There is abundant evidence that the Carnet de Chasse is open to abuse with hunters under-reporting the numbers of birds they shoot.  This under-reporting in autumn opens the door for the spring hunting season, because if more than a certain number of turtle dove and quail are shot in autumn, spring hunting cannot take place.”

 BirdLife Malta also reaffirmed its position that the referendum for the abolition of spring hunting must take place in March 2015, before the next spring hunting season is scheduled to take place.  “The vast majority of Maltese people are sick and tired of the behaviour of hunters and want the chance to enjoy the birds that fly over Malta in spring in peace and quiet.  The Maltese electorate deserve the chance to vote spring hunting out of existence before another season can take place.”

FKNK: Dotterel ‘mistaken’ for White Stork

Just a few minutes before the government statement was issued by the DOI, the hunters federation FKNK issued a statement denying that a White Stork shot on Friday was a White Stork, but a Dotterel. 

“The extent of imagination that BirdLife Malta and its lackeys can dream-up in its quest to tarnish hunters' reputation is incredible,” FKNK said, hitting out at Times of Malta reporter Caroline Muscat.

“Police officials have confirmed to the Federation for Hunting and Conservation - Malta (FKNK) that the report is incorrect and that in all probability this report refers to the arrest of a man in connection to the shooting of a dotterel and not a white stork,” FKNK said.

“Notwithstanding, both species are classified as strictly protected and therefore the FKNK repeats that such cowardly acts of illegal shooting of protected bird species, are in no way connected to legal sustainable hunting, and again warns, that its reaction and that of genuine hunters, will ensure that persons who commit such criminal acts will not find refuge anywhere.”

FKNK said it is obvious that these illegal acts continue to shed a bad light on the otherwise genuine true hunters and the FKNK itself despite the fact that these are not at fault.

“Thus and furthermore, the FKNK will do its utmost to ensure that the remaining handful of lawbreakers, whose illegal actions are causing so much harm to Maltese and Gozitan hunters and to Malta, are eradicated for good,” it said.