Over 20 volunteers from eight countries will be joining forces with BirdLife Malta over the coming days, as Malta’s controversial spring hunting season opens for two weeks starting this Sunday 17th April. BirdLife Malta’s Spring Watch teams will be monitoring the hunting season’s activities collecting vital data on this year’s spring hunting derogation, reporting any illegal activities taking place and, ultimately protecting migratory birds.
As spring migration of birds returning to Europe to breed reaches a peak in the coming days, the Maltese government has authorised a two week hunting season, from the 17th until the 30th April allowing circa 10,000 hunters to hunt a total of 5,000 Quail (Summiena) and 5,000 Turtle Dove (Gamiema). The European Turtle Dove was last year classified as a ‘vulnerable’ species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and therefore requiring conservation measures across its range. Despite opposition voiced by BirdLife Malta to the Ornis Committee and to government authorities on the unsustainability of hunting a species that is considered on the way to extinction, the Government still opted to open a spring hunting season. It announced the 5,000 Turtle Dove quota as a ‘conservation measure’, referring to a reduction from previous years’ quotas of 11,000 Turtle Doves.
“The announcement of the opening of this year’s hunting season comes as a great disappointment, particularly following the news of the Turtle Dove (Gamiema) now declared as a ‘vulnerable’ species as is listed under IUCN’s Red List. In the last 15 years, Turtle Dove populations have already decreased by 30%,” commented Nick Piludu conservation officer. “Past spring hunting seasons have shown that government authorities cannot realistically control the amount of birds killed. A failed game-reporting system drastically puts this species at risk, going against the conservation efforts expected to safeguard this species.”
Over the past years, hunters have subsequently declared less than 5,000 Turtle Doves caught each and every spring hunting season. This year’s hunting season is accordingly not deemed to introduce any particular conservation measure, and no justifications have been presented yet by the Wild Birds Regulation Unit or any government authority, to explain how a hunting season on 5,000 Turtle Doves actually contributes to the conservation of the species.
Although BirdLife Malta does not agree with the opening of a spring hunting, the organization remains committed to aiding law enforcement wherever possible throughout this period to ensure hunting laws are enforced, illegalities are handled accordingly and any injured birds are cared for. Over the past years, the spring hunting season served as a smokescreen for protected birds to be targeted. Whilst hoping that no protected birds are shot during this season, we also hope the Government will take the same stance it took last year when it closed the season prematurely due to a shot protected bird.
Spring Watch will run throughout the hunting season – which closes on the 30th April – and will continue for some time after to ensure any illegalities which may take place outside the designated period are quickly reported. BirdLife Malta strongly urges the support of the public to report any suspected illegalities by contacting the police on 119, and then BirdLife Malta on 2134 7644/6 or on the emergency (out of office hours) number 7925 5697.
Spring Watch is an essential part of BirdLife Malta’s work and is only possible with the support of volunteers and with funds raised through memberships and donations. To help BirdLife Malta continue this vital work, please visit the website to donate: https://birdlifemalta.org/donate/ or email us on [email protected].