[WATCH] Trapping season should never be opened again – Birdlife

Reacting to a decision by the European Court of Justice that found Malta to be infringing on the Birds Directive, the eNGO called on the government to immediately repeal the relevant laws

From left: Saviour Balzan, Mark Sultana, Darryl Grima and Nicholas Barbara
From left: Saviour Balzan, Mark Sultana, Darryl Grima and Nicholas Barbara
BirdLife President Mark Sultana reacts to ECJ finch trapping decision

The trapping season should never be opened again, and government ought to repeal the relevant law immediately, Birdlife Malta said on Thursday afternoon.

"There is only one course of action for the government," Birdlife Malta CEO Mark Sultana said. "It is a verdict which cannot be appealed... and I don't think the government is so caught up with the hunters' lobby that it wouldn't respect the verdict."

Sultana was addressing a press conference following a decision by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on Malta’s finch trapping season, which was controversially reopened in 2014.  The ECJ found Malta guilty of infringing the European Birds Directive, with Sultana describing the verdict as a “victory for the entire natural environment”.

"The ECJ clearly states that by adopting a derogation allowing the trapping of seven species of finches, Malta has failed to fulfill its obligations under EU law," Birdlife said.

Read more: EU court declares trapping in Malta illegal, but PN and hunters want new derogation

The NGO said that trapping methods used were not selective, and could not guarantee that other birds are not also captured. “The court noted that trapping in Malta is done with massive clap-nets…and that recreational trapping of birds cannot be considered judicious use.”

Sultana said that trapping sites should be rehabilitated, and the ones on public land should be given back to the public. "The majority of these trapping sites are on public land situated in Natura 2000 sites which should be given importance due to their ecological importance."

The eNGO's Secretary General Saviour Balzan said that Malta cannot "pick and choose" EU law, and that Malta was in clear breach of the directive.

Balzan noted that the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) itself recognised that trapping was non-selective and that there was a high risk of it being abused.

The ruling will also have an impact on the illegal trade of finches, particularly between Italy and Malta, as these are often used as love decoys during the open season.

"This verdict, which cannot be appealed, is binding, and Malta is obliged to abide by its conclusions. Although Malta was ordered to pay all the court expenses related to the case, it will not incur any further fines if it abides by the ruling," Birdlife said.

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