Spring hunting season opens tomorrow; birds flying towards their breeding grounds should be protected not killed

March 24, 2017 9:50 am

This year’s spring hunting season opens tomorrow and will run until Friday the 14th of April.

The 2017 spring hunting season will be open for Quail only following a moratorium imposed last year on the Turtle Dove in reaction to statements by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella regarding the sustainability of a spring hunting season on the vulnerable species. The IUCN had revised the conservation status of the Turtle Dove to ‘vulnerable’ in June 2015 in response to further population declines across its breeding range. This will be the first time since 2009 that Turtle Dove will not be legally hunted in spring.

Quail shot during the spring hunting season (Photo by Luke Massey)

The hunting season will open via Legal Notices 82 and 83 of 2017 which authorise the dates between Saturday 25th March and Friday 14th April for hunting along with setting quotas for Quail. The national hunting bag limit has been set at 5,000 Quail and hunters are not to exceed the daily bag limit of five Quails and the seasonal bag limit of ten Quails per hunter. These have increased compared to previous years whilst timing remains the same with hunting being permitted between two hours before sunrise and noon for every day of the season. Hunters are required to report their catch by calling the telephone number specified in the Special Licence.

The dates announced are meant to coincide with Quail migration and to avoid Turtle Dove migration which peaks around the second half of April. Just over 6,650 hunters have applied for this year’s season according to information supplied by the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) during the last Ornis Committee meeting. Over 60 officers will be deployed from the Police and the Armed Forces of Malta.

BirdLife Malta’s position in regard to this year’s spring hunting season remains that there is no scientific justification for spring hunting.

Summing up the reasons for this, BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana stated: “BirdLife Malta has been consistent during the years with regards to the lack of justification to allow spring hunting in Malta. The only reason Malta derogates from the European Birds’ Directive is purely because of political promises. Scientific studies commissioned by the Government itself show there is a sufficient passage of Quail in autumn while all those that understand the value of conservation know that birds flying towards their breeding grounds should not be killed but protected.”

There will be no hunting for Turtle Dove this year following a moratorium imposed last year after this bird’s status was revised to ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN (Photo by Aron Tanti)

BirdLife Malta, however, has a number of other concerns in relation to this year’s particular circumstances. Controlling the quotas for Quail has proven next to impossible in past seasons and this year individual quotas have been increased despite hunters barely declaring catching much in previous years during spring. Another issue is related to the fact that hunting of Quail requires hunters to actively search for their game rather than sitting in hides and it remains to be seen how the season shall be enforced. Finally, despite the rampant use of illegal electronic callers at night for Quail, no move was made by the WBRU to clamp down on these by improving the system of administrative fines currently in place.

During the next three weeks, BirdLife Malta will be counting on the public’s engagement to ensure that environmental law enforcement remains a priority during this year’s spring hunting season. While hoping that illegalities continue to decrease, we urge anyone witnessing illegal hunting to immediately report the case to the police and to BirdLife Malta in order for immediate action to be taken.

If the public encounters eletronic lures, these should be reported together with their GPS locations and the time when they are heard. The public should also be aware that all other birds except Quail cannot be hunted.

Illegalities and cases of injured birds can be reported to the police on 119 and to BirdLife Malta by calling 2134 7645/6 during office hours or our hotline 7925 5697 (strictly only for wildlife crime emergencies) during evenings and weekends. Other reports can be sent by email to [email protected] or by leaving us a Facebook message on www.facebook.com/birdlifemalta.

Read the Maltese version of the press release here.