New trapping rules will require at least 40 police officers for daily spot checks

The new regulations are expected to be published on Friday and were drawn up following discussions with the European Commission

At least 40 officers will have to be deployed to carry out systematic spot checks when the trapping season is open
At least 40 officers will have to be deployed to carry out systematic spot checks when the trapping season is open

A minimum of 40 police officers will have to carry out spot checks during all hours for when an autumn live-capturing season is open, according to a new parameters announced on Wednesday on the trapping of plover and song thrush.

The new live-trapping season will open on Saturday.

Speaking at a press conference on the new rules, Parliamentary secretary for animal welfare Clint Camilleri said that as long as Malta respects the conditions of the derogation from the Birds Directive, it would be address the “serious doubts” raised by the Commission in a 2012 reasoned opinion on the trapping of plover and thrush.

In addition to obliging authorities to deploy 40 police officers during all hours of the trapping season, the new rules require two officers to be on duty outside trapping hours. 

The new rules will see Malta and Gozo divided into 10 distinct regions, four in Gozo and six in Malta, with police obliged to carry out “daily systematic spot checks” in each one.

Police officers will be legally obliged to cooperate with NGOs whose representatives may be assigned by the Wild Birds Regulations Unit (WBRU) to assist in on-site inspections.

The coordinates of all approved stations will be made public by the WBRU at least three days before the start of the season.

The new rules will also see license holders be able to register one live-trapping site, rather than two as was previously permissible, with each site allowed a maximum of two nets.

Net mesh sizes have also been increased from a minimum of 30x30mm to 45x45mm, in order to ensure that the practice is more selective. All clap nets will need to be “removed, deactivated, or covered” when not in use. 

License holders who have registered to practice trapping of Golden Plover or of both species will be allowed nets with a maximum footprint of 60 sq.m, while those stating they want to capture Song Trush only will be allowed a maximum net footprint of 38 sq.m.

Moreover, the legal notice empowers authorities to deregister a trapping site if bird callers are discovered on site.

Any ringed birds that are captured must be reported and released.

Camilleri has stressed that Malta will respect a decision handed down by the European Court of Justice earlier this year, and that the new rules are based on the points raised in this same judgment.

“We believed that with reasoned effort, we could reach an agreement... these parameters are to be observed and we are insisting on compliance with these measures,” he said.

Camilleri urged hunters and trappers to abide by the news rules appealing to them not to let him down.

In a reaction to Camilleri's announcement, BirdLife Malta said it had written to the European Commission to gather more information on the nature of the discussions held with the Maltese government.  It said that it was satisfied that finch trapping would not be allowed this year but addede that the European Commission might have been taken for a ride if the Maltese government promised it can control the quotas and ensure they are not surpassed.

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