Environment groups pressure the government to enforce environment laws

BirdLife Malta says the enforcement of environmental laws has regressed, while CABS accuses police of ignoring reports

Trapped Meadow Pipit in an unattended clap net
Trapped Meadow Pipit in an unattended clap net

While welcoming the prime minister’s calls for law and order as indicated by his speech on Sunday, the environmental NGO BirdLife Malta has expressed concern regarding the government’s apparent failure to enforce environmental laws.

The NGO said that there has been a collapse in the enforcement of environmental laws which is resulting in irreparable damage to the natural environment.

The group also criticised the police for their failure to enforce the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU), thereby encouraging illegalities. “It is disheartening to see the Government place environment at the bottom of its priorities,” Mark Sultana, CEO of BirdLife Malta said, adding that there is no enforcement of environmental laws in the countryside. “If we are to talk of law and order, then we should be aware of the number of infringements occurring in the environment sector are too numerous to ignore.”

Sultana said that the illegal occupation of both public and private land by trappers is yet to be tackled, as well as the “widespread use of illegal artificial means of capture” and the illegal killing of protected species.

“Birdlife Malta has been patient and cooperative with the Government, but the prime minister should be aware that there are thousands of Maltese people of different political beliefs who share one common belief: that  nature protection is seriously lacking, and it is not a priority for Government or the Opposition.”

German voluntary organisation Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) published an open letter to Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar this morning on behalf of the organisation and “many Maltese citizens” who believe that the police is tolerating illegalities in regards to bird trapping.

CABS said that the police failed to respond to more than 83% of the cases of illegal night trapping or use of illegal bird callers reported by themselves.

The group, which has been monitoring and reporting illegal night trapping of Golden Plover and other nocturnal bird species during November 2014 and December 2017, reported a total of 43 calls to report over 100 illegal trapping sites and electronic lures. 36 of these 43 reports were not acted upon, the letter reads. “The overwhelming majority of district police stations simply refuse to respond to our reports, which can be interpreted as a systematic obstruction of justice.”

The officers who responded to their phone calls, the letter said, “openly declared” that they were not willing to act upon the illegalities as they were too busy, it was too dangerous, and they were not trained to do so.

CABS also criticised the low prosecution rate for such crimes – only 3 known cases of charges issued to offenders, representing less than 2% of all night incidents reported by CABS since November 2014. “This endangers populations of certain bird species, but also the reputation of Malta’s law enforcement system, especially because the problem has been known for many years,”

The letter noted that a promise made by the previous Police Commissioner, Michael Cassar, to adjust the hours Administrative Law Enforcement (ALE) in order to deal with the problem of illegal night-time trapping, was not kept.

“Such a massive lack of enforcement forms a straight-forward breach of the EU’s Bird’s directive which commits Malta to strict supervision of the trapping regulations.”

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