Autumn hunting season closes with 62 illegally shot protected birds

This year's autumn hunting season was the worst for illegalities in the last five years, according to bird conservationists

Autumn hunting season
Autumn hunting season

A total of 62 protected birds were illegally shot during the 2017-2018 autumn hunting season, BIrdLife said.

The hunting season, which ran between 1 September and 31 January, came to a close yesterday. It was the worst season for illegalities in the last five years, with 62 protected birds shot retrieved during the season, the bird conservation group said.

Out of the total known shot protected birds, 49 were recovered by BirdLife Malta whilst the other 13 were received or collected by the police.

"A comparison of the casualties retrieved by BirdLife Malta over the past five autumn hunting seasons makes for a worrying return of illegal hunting practices," the group added.

Number of known shot protected birds retrieved by BirdLife Malta during autumn hunting seasons
Number of known shot protected birds retrieved by BirdLife Malta during autumn hunting seasons

Figures provided by BirdLife show that a total of 43 shot birds were collected during the 2013-2014 autumn hunting season. These went down to 21 the following autumn, and further down to 17 during the 2015-2016 autumn hunting season and again in the 2016-2017 season.

These totals refer to birds found by members of the public and reported to BirdLife Malta and are certified as shot by a government-appointed veterinary. Adding the numbers collected by the police would push the totals further up, BirdLife said.

The organisation insisted this autumn hunting season was particularly bad for the exceptional use of electronic callers with little or no enforcement on the matter. In its annual report for 2017, which has just been issued, the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) mentions only six bird callers being seized during the whole season.

BirdLife lamented that the Administrative Law Enforcement (ALE) police unit is still understaffed and under-resourced. "It is unable to respond to all of BirdLife Malta’s reports handed over to the police throughout the year," the group said.

"When comparing the figures for the whole year in terms of hunting illegalities, another bleak picture quickly emerges with 2017 again resulting as the worst in the past five years," BirdLife noted, adding that between January and December last year, a total of 82 known illegally shot protected birds were collected.

Known shot protected birds during the past five years
Known shot protected birds during the past five years

Commenting on the figures for 2017, BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana stated that these clearly show that when the Government opted to take a clear stand on illegalities as demonstrated in 2015 when the spring season was closed prematurely, the illegalities went down. This is because hunters felt that abuse of the law would not be tolerated.

In its last meeting held on the 24 January, the Ornis committee, a consultative body, agreed to discuss the parameters of the next spring hunting season for common quail, with BirdLife Malta being the only entity voting against, Sultana said.

The spring hunting of turtle dove is still subject to a moratorium and there will be no hunting permitted for this vulnerable species.  

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