Update 2 | Hunters condemn BirdLife ‘propaganda’ on illegal bird killing

BirdLife Malta disappointed by hunters’ stance in discrediting BirdLife’s work, rather than condemn illegal hunting

BirdLife Malta has expressed its “huge disappointment” over the reactions of St Hubert’s Hunters and FKNK to a report by BirdLife International over the illegal killing of birds.

Maltese hunters have vehemently rejected reports that an average of 108,000 birds are killed illegally in Malta every year. According to BirdLife Malta, the 108,000 figure does not include 11,000 turtle dove and 5,000 quail which are killed under the spring hunting derogation.

Both St Hubert’s Hunters (KSU) and hunting federation FKNK have dubbed figures supplied by BirdLife Malta to BirdLife International “exaggerated” and “deceitful”.

“It is hugely disappointing that, once again, rather than condemning illegal hunting and working together to eradicate it, both KSU and FKNK have sought instead to attack and discredit BirdLife Malta for bringing it to light,” BirdLife said, contacted for a reaction.

This month, BirdLife International issued a scientific report revealing that 25 million are illegally slaughtered in the Mediterranean every year.

BirdLife and Partners have uncovered the shocking extent to which a number of birds are being illegally killed, putting together a list of the ten countries with the highest estimated annual death toll.

Although countries currently hit by conflict, such as Syria and Libya, feature high in the rankings, some European nations also fare poorly.

Italy (where 5.6 million birds are estimated to be killed illegally every year) is second only to Egypt for the estimated mean number of illegal killings each year, with the Famagusta area of Cyprus the single worst location in the Mediterranean.

Other European countries featuring in the top 10 are; Greece (mean estimate of 0.7 million birds killed annually), France (0.5 million), Croatia (0.5 million) and Albania (0.3 million).

Despite not ranking in the top 10 overall, Malta (where 108,000 birds are estimated to be killed illegally each year) is still seeing the region’s highest estimated number of birds illegally killed per square kilometre. The estimate is of 340 birds killed illegally for every square kilometre.

“At the time of collating information for BirdLife International’s report on llegal killing of birds in the Mediterranean, BirdLife Malta had asked for collaboration and feedback from the hunting representatives on the Ornis committee - Lino Farrugia and Joe Perici Calascione from FKNK,” a spokesperson for BirdLife Malta said.

“However, they refused to provide input and instead resorted to publicly attacking the process.”

The spokesperson said that government representatives from the Wild Bird's Regulation Unit were also consulted: “Hunting organisations should be tackling this issue, not apologising for it [number of illegal killings].”

But the two hunting organisations in Malta insist that the figures gathered by BirdLife Malta are exaggerated, fallacious and far off from reality.

“Suffice to say that this report even considers the legal shooting of turtle dove and quail under derogation as part of the illegal killing, notwithstanding the closure of spring hunting infringement procedures by the European Commission,” KSU president Mark Mifsud Bonnici said.

KSU rejected BirdLife’s findings as “spurious and damaging” and as “vile propaganda”.

“The adverse publicity attributed to Malta as “Europe’s black spot” or “bird hell” is disproven by Birdlife’s own report, since even their exaggerated figures pale into insignificance compared to those of other countries,” Mifsud Bonnici said. “Birdlife Malta should stick to the truth and spare Malta the embarrassment and harm of their anti hunting extremism.” 

BirdLife International published its first review on Friday and was picked up by local media over the weekend. FKNK, in its reaction, said that the report had been in the public domain since last year and claim that it was “coincidentally picked on the eve of the opening of the autumn hunting season”.

FKNK said that last December, the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) had countered the Report “through sound scientific data). 

Accusing BirdLife Malta of deceit, FKNK said that BirdLife considered itself above the law for considering “illegal” and activity that may be legal under national law or derogation.

FKNK went on to add that BirdLife Malta and BirdLife International have refused “to honour” a 2009 agreement between the European Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation (FACE) and BirdLife International; the respective European Court of Justice ruling of 10 September 2009; and the local referendum result of 12 April 2015.

“[These] endorsed the ECJ ruling that spring hunting is possible by application of derogation and thus perfectly legal.  The EU dropped the infringements against Malta in this respect immediately following the referendum result,” FKNK said.

It also criticised BirdLife Malta for not contacting FKNK during its information gathering.

“In the FKNK’s opinion, it is high time that the local authorities stop such BLM damage, disseminated through deceitful information, outright lies, gross exaggerations and half-truths, not just for local hunters and trappers Maltese citizens, but also for the Maltese islands reputation in general.  This BLM behaviour will not protect Malta’s avifauna.”