A spring hunting season designed to target the protected Turtle Dove

February 28, 2018 2:35 pm

BirdLife Malta officials react to the change in dates of the spring hunting season (Photo by Eleni Karatzia)

  • Government ignores ERA advice and scientific data; bends over backwards to accommodate hunting lobby

  • Change in season dates increases risk of further environmental infringements by European Commission

  • BirdLife Malta will submit extensive report to EU, under pressure to reconsider opting for another referendum

With yesterday’s decision by the Ornis Committee to move this year’s spring hunting season dates backwards to the period between the 5th and the 25th of April, this year’s season will coincide with the peak migration of Turtle Dove, a species which is protected all over Europe, supposedly also in Malta through a moratorium on the hunting of this vulnerable species during spring.

This effectively means that this year’s spring hunting season is one which has been designed to target the protected Turtle Dove.

BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana addressing the media (Photo by Eleni Karatzia)

Last year the spring hunting season – which due to the moratorium was opened only for Quail – was moved earlier (from the 10th-30th of April to the 25th March-14th of April) in order to avoid overlapping with the Turtle Dove’s peak migration period, while still being satisfactory for those hunting Quail.

But this year, the Government has given in, and is bending over backwards to accomodate the hunting lobby which has been putting enormous pressure to have a spring hunting season for Quail during the peak migration of the protected Turtle Dove. This move will thus allow a smokescreen for hunters to have a go at hunting Turtle Doves. This is in contradiction to the European conservation efforts to safeguard this protected species.

Moreover, advice by the Environment & Resources Authority (ERA) and relevant scientific studies have fallen on deaf ears. This is despite ERA substantiating the scientific data, declaring its position categorically against moving the dates backward and going further to propose that the season be moved a week ahead, from the 15th of March till the 4th of April, specifically to avoid Turtle Dove migration.

BirdLife Malta Secretary General Saviour Balzan (left) and CEO Mark Sultana (Photo by Eleni Karatzia)

The recommendation by Ornis to open a spring hunting season for Quail – up to a maximum quota of 5,000 – for the period of the 5th-25th of April (both days included), will now fall onto the Minister for Environment’s lap, who will have to take the final decision on the chosen dates. However, as is now customary, these dates will undoubtedly be approved as once again Ornis remains a rubber stamp to whatever the Government wants and decides, with political considerations being at the forefront of most decisions, rather than scientific facts.

The scientific data produced by the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) and BirdLife Malta shows that there is enough Quail migrating between the last week of March and mid April for a sufficient hunting season. The Carnet de Chasse, which is what hunters themselves declared, also shows that a season between the last week of March and mid April would have been sufficient for them to catch the quota of 5,000 Quail. (In 2017 during this three-week period over 12,000 Quail were registered as caught).

BirdLife Malta reacts to the announcement of the 2018 spring hunting season (Photo by Eleni Karatzia)

In a press conference to give its reaction to the announcement of the 2018 spring hunting season, BirdLife Malta reiterated its position that it does not agree with any hunting during spring whilst stating that there is no doubt that this year’s change in dates is purposely designed to target Turtle Doves. There is also no doubt that Turtle Doves will be killed this year due to this change in dates. At the same time, for the same reason, enforcing the Turtle Dove hunting moratorium this spring is going to be close to impossible.

BirdLife Malta President Darryl Grima, Secretary General Saviour Balzan and CEO Mark Sultana explained that enforcement in 2017 was inefficient and negligible, leading to the worst year in the last five years when it comes to illegally shot protected birds. They also warned that with this change in dates the Government is risking further environmental infringements by the European Commission, who had originally shelved infringement procedures only after the moratorium on the hunting of Turtle Dove was declared.

BirdLife Malta will be submitting an extensive report to the European Commission with all the scientific facts and will be documenting and monitoring all illegalities to forward to the Commission accordingly, asking for immediate action.

“The Government does not care about what ERA states or what the scientific data is indicating. It cares only about the hunting lobby and disregards us, BirdLife Malta, as if the people we represent and the sentiments they cherish are negligible,” the BirdLife Malta officials stated, whilst continuing to explain that BirdLife Malta has been under serious pressure to reconsider opting for another referendum and this option will be considered in order to mobilise the people who care about nature and the environment once again.

BirdLife Malta insists that the Government should realise that the man in the street, families and youths, irrespective of their political beliefs, care about nature and the environment. We will be urging these people to speak out and to express their concerns in all possible ways.

Read the Maltese version of the press release here.

You can also watch a video edit with footage from this morning’s press conference here and the full press conference here.

Click on the links below to access the documents which were distributed to the media during this morning’s press conference.

  1. Quail vs Turtle Dove spring migration comparisons (WBRU figures)
  2. Hunting declarations of shot Quail during past hunting seasons
  3. Spring hunting analysis by BirdLife Malta presented to Ornis Committee in February 2018