BirdLife Malta is today reiterating the call made last week by CABS, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter to close the trapping season for Golden Plover, after witnessing an exceptional migration of the species over the past weeks with widespread trapping activity being undertaken across the two islands, often at night, and with the illegal use of electronic callers.
Together with this press release, BirdLife Malta is releasing a video highlighting the use of electronic callers in various locations in the countryside. The video shows how the use of illegal electronic callers is rampant and unregulated.
Over the course of November and December, we have been receiving on a daily basis alerts by members of the public, reporting the use of electronic callers for Golden Plover during the day and night, with little or no police action taken to control them.
Questions made to the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) during an Ornis Committee meeting held last Thursday have revealed that although there has been a reported presence of 30 to 35 enforcement officers in the field during the trapping season, only 11 fines for the use of electronic callers were issued over the past 4 months of hunting and trapping. A meagre amount considering that during this period over 10,000 hunters and 4,000 trappers are active in Malta’s countryside.
Thanks to amendments to the Conservation of Wild Birds Regulations proposed by the WBRU in 2013, the use of electronic callers has been decriminalised, and nowadays instead of appearing in court would-be culprits only face the prospect of a €250 fine. Although this was done with the intention of making enforcement more effective, it seems that it is leading to precisely the opposite effect.
It has been common practice throughout the trapping season to have these callers automatically set on in the countryside at various trapping locations, with these being switched off at the slightest presence of police or members of the public who would be reporting the matter to the authorities.
During last Thursday’s Ornis Committee meeting, WBRU have also confirmed that the quota of 700 Golden Plovers allocated for this year’s trapping season has not yet been reached, despite birdwatchers having witnessed one of the most exceptionally good years for migration of this species.
“While the use of electronic callers is by far unregulated, these devices are very effective at attracting these birds to a trapping site, and have become part and parcel of our rural countryside”, commented BirdLife Malta’s Conservation Manager Nicholas Barbara. This goes against the spirit of strict supervision demanded by this derogation which should regulate each trapper to trap up to 6 birds after which trapping should be halted.
We would like to extend our appeal to the members of the public to keep reporting illegalities they witness by calling 119. The use and locations of electronic callers should be registered via GPS locations and also reported immediately to us on [email protected].