BirdLife Malta today said that the Government’s proposed amendments to bird protection regulations have gone too far. Changes proposed through the Wild Birds Regulations Unit (WBRU) under parliamentary secretary Roderick Galdes will weaken the legal framework of the Wild Birds Regulations, an act that was designed to protect our birds.
Mark Sultana, BirdLife Malta’s CEO said this during a press conference, called a day before the end of a public consultation process on a proposed legal notice amending the Wild Birds Regulations of 2006. He said BirdLife Malta had already submitted its full reply to all the various amendments and is categorically calling on the WBRU, The Ministry for Sustainable Development, Environment and Climate Change and the Prime Minister not to implement the proposed changes in the Legal notice.
Apart from various amendments, this Legal notice will allow persons to be in possession of any non-EU bird, irrespective of its protection status in its country of origin. This will encourage persons to go for hunting trips in countries such as Argentina and Ethiopia. “Those that organise these trips as part of their business, have a lot to benefit from this amendment, making us suspect that they actually lobbied for this change,” Mark Sultana said. He explained that this is effectively an amnesty for those who are presently breaking the law because they are in possession of birds, such as eagles, caught in territories outside of Europe.
Mark Sultana said: “Nature protection does not stop with the borders of the European Union, if this was the case, we would not have a reason to protect migrating birds wintering from Europe in Africa and Asia. Ironically, when talking about other environmental issues, such as climate change, the government looks at them from a global perspective. So we ask – why is it different with bird protection?”
Another very dangerous change proposed is that of distinguishing between a person who was clearly witnessed shooting at a protected bird, and another being in possession of a protected bird.
Sultana insisted that this means that anyone in possession of a protected bird will not be subject to receiving the harshest fines anymore. He said that this is also another scandalous attempt to weaken the strength of those who are responsible in enforcing the law.
BirdLife Malta reminded that in 2013 WBRU issued a legal notice (LN231 of 2013) changing illegal offences that would end with prosecution in court into administrative fines, while in August of this year another legal notice (LN281 of 2015) increased WBRU’s remit including enforcement and issuing of licences and permits.
It also brought about a free-for-all situation in taxidermy (the stuffing of wild birds) practice, where the need for licences was removed. It is also important to mention that in December 2014 WBRU was proposing an amnesty for those in possession of protected birds, which was not allowed to proceed following pressure by BirdLife Malta.
Mark Sultana pointed out: “These latest proposals are just the last of a number of changes or attempted changes that WBRU have spearheaded with the sole intention of weakening the law that was specifically designed to protect our birds. With these amendments we are weakening bird protection, in the same year when half of the Maltese citizens sent a clear message to the government asking for more protection.”
“BirdLife Malta can understand, even in disagreement, that the Government has a declared policy in favour of hunting and trapping practices. But while the government is declaring a zero tolerance on illegalities it is using the WBRU to weaken the Wild Birds Regulations.”
“We call on the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and the Minister of Environment Leo Brincat not to ignore the environmental lobby and to take up our concerns. We expect this legal notice to be scrapped for the benefit of our living heritage, the birds.”