Whilst we feel the desire to focus more on biodiversity in general, on land management and on habitats-related work; this year proved once again that unfortunately bird hunting and trapping remain too big of a challenge to let go. And the fact that in just over a year the country will be going through a general election leads us to fear that the spike in rampant illegal hunting due to lack of enforcement will be on the increase next year.
This was stated by BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana during BirdLife Malta’s 2016 Annual General Meeting (AGM) which was held yesterday at Salina Nature Reserve.
Sultana explained how this year BirdLife Malta had to collect over 180 injured birds, some of which are highly protected and unfortunately most of which had to be euthanised by the vets. He highlighted this year’s achievements and future challenges which include Malta’s EU Presidency next year during which BirdLife Malta will be side-by-side with BirdLife Europe to push the environmental issues on the agenda. He also spoke about the importance of science and scientific research to advocate change and also about the need to build bridges with entities such as the University of Malta and Heritage Malta, whilst also seeking common ground to work with those who might not have BirdLife Malta’s same conservation values at heart.
BirdLife Malta’s Secretary General Saviour Balzan, who opened the AGM, spoke about this year’s decision by BirdLife Malta not to enter into confrontation with its adversaries. He said that despite some positive signals, on the bird protection level there is still a way to go.
He also spoke about BirdLife Malta’s environmental education work, conservation and scientific research as well as the management of the reserves including the latest addition, Salina. Balzan listed 10 challenges for 2017 which include more investment in research and education, new offices for BirdLife Malta in the centre of Malta and a drive to increase membership. He concluded that 2016 was a very important year for the organisation with some important operational decisions taken after the referendum, including those to recruit a Maltese Chief Executive, a Maltese Communications Manger and the new Education Manager who will soon be employed – also being a local.
President Darryl Grima, in his closing address, spoke mostly about BirdLife Malta’s international work as a partner within the BirdLife family. He referred to the latest international campaign #NatureAlert to which BirdLife Malta contributed and which led to the EU’s Birds and Habitats Directives being saved. He also spoke about the need to continue investing in BirdLife Malta’s nature reserves and in its members and thanked the staff for their work during the year which is coming to an end. He concluded on the importance of more open dialogue with all sectors of the Maltese society and said that even the fact that the AGM was being held at Salina – which has just been entrusted in BirdLife Malta’s hands – goes to show that the NGO can be an effective and respected lobby in Malta.
The AGM approved the audited financial statements and also a number of changes to BirdLife’s statute which were recommended by the Council to enable BirdLife Malta to operate more efficiently and effectively.
Then the members present for the AGM had the opportunity to watch presentations on BirdLife Malta’s work during 2016 which were given by the NGO’s managers who head the different departments – namely conservation, LIFE projects, communications, education and the Adult Activities Group.
An interesting presentation about the top birdwatching episodes and spectacular rarities observed during 2016, together with a short video clip about BirdLife Malta were also shown during the event.
At the end of the proceedings, CEO Mark Sultana presented BirdLife Malta field teacher Victor Falzon with the trophy which was awarded to BirdLife Malta earlier this month for its landmark publication “History of Ornithology in Malta” during the National Book Prize 2016 ceremony at Castille. The book co-authored by Joe Sultana and John J Borg won the Best Design & Presentation category and Falzon was responsible for the layout, illustration and design.
Read the Maltese version of the press release here.