Jose Herrera opts for four-day ‘compromise’ on spring hunting

The environment minister has announced a spring hunting season running from the 1 to the 21 April

The spring hunting season will open on 1 April and run through to 21 April
The spring hunting season will open on 1 April and run through to 21 April

The 2018 spring hunting season will be open for quail only between Sunday 1 April and Saturday 21 April, the environment ministry said this afternoon.

Last month, the Ornis Committee recommended a spring hunting season between 5 April and 25 April, a decision described by the BirdLife Malta as the government “bending over backward” to accommodate the hunting lobby.

The recommended season coincides with peak migration of turtle dove – a protected species.

Last year’s season was between 25 March and 14 April.

Addressing a press conference last week, BirdLife Malta officials said there were sure Ornis’ recommendation would be approved, given that political considerations were prioritised over scientific facts.

In a statement published this afternoon the ministry said the season would be open from two hours before sunrise until noon, and that only those issued a Special Spring Hunting License for 2018 would be permitted to hunt for quail.

Hunters are only permitted to hunt for quail during the hunting season
Hunters are only permitted to hunt for quail during the hunting season

“The national hunting bag limit for this season has been established at 5,000 quails. Hunters are not to exceed the daily bag limit of five quails and a seasonal bag limit of 10 quails per hunter. They will be required to report their catch by calling the telephone number specified in the special license and follow instructions given through voice prompts,” the ministry said.

Furthermore, the government reminded hunters that a moratorium prohibiting hunting of turtle dove in spring was “still in place”.

“Any shooting of turtle doves or any species other than quail is strictly prohibited and anyone caught breaking the law will be subject to criminal procedures and high penalties,” it said. “The limited spring hunting season will be subject to stringent enforcement, including spot-checks. Any non-compliance with applicable conditions and regulations will not be tolerated.”

Gamble not worth taking

In a reaction, BirdLife Malta described the decision as a “gamble not worth taking”.

“The extension until the 21st of April will leave the Turtle Dove as a protected species at enormous risk. The Government has ignored the suggestion of its own agency – the Environment & Resources Authority (ERA) – which suggested the 15th of March to the 4th of April for the limited shooting of Quail,” said the eNGO.

“The Government is aware that without proper enforcement across Malta and Gozo, it is opening itself to infringements procedures from the EU Commission.”

Moreover, BirdLife Malta said that hunters in Malta had already been seen clearing their hunting hides, which it said cannot be used for Quail hunting, but were specifically used for Turtle Dove hunting.

“Furthermore, to add insult to injury, trapping sites have been revisited by trappers for the spring migration of finches even though this has been illegal for years. The Government has an obligation to the wider public when it comes to environmental protection in the country – while it states it will not tolerate any illegalities, when push comes to shove it knows that enforcement across Malta and Gozo is limited and difficult,” BirdLife said.

BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana said that the eNGO had tried its best in being constructive with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and parliamentary secretary Clint Camilleri.

It said it would closely monitor the hunting season for potential illegalities.

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