BirdLife Malta notes the decision by the Government to extend the spring hunting season to coincide with the peak migration of the Turtle Dove. Though the original proposal by the Ornis Committee was until the 25th of April, the decision to open the hunting season until the 21st still is a gamble not worth taking.
The extension until the 21st of April will leave the Turtle Dove as a protected species at enormous risk. The Government has ignored the suggestion of its own agency – the Environment & Resources Authority (ERA) – which suggested the 15th of March to the 4th of April for the limited shooting of Quail. The Government is aware that without proper enforcement across Malta and Gozo, it is opening itself to infringements procedures from the EU Commission.
Hunters in Malta and Gozo have already been seen clearing their hunting hides which cannot be used for Quail hunting but are specifically used for Turtle Dove hunting (see pictures enclosed). Signs with no legal basis asking people not to trespass can also be seen all over the countryside. Furthermore, to add insult to injury, trapping sites have been revisited by trappers for the spring migration of finches even though this has been illegal for years.
The Government has an obligation to the wider public when it comes to environmental protection in the country – while it states it will not tolerate any illegalities, when push comes to shove it knows that enforcement across Malta and Gozo is limited and difficult.
BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana said that the hunting extension would be closely monitored. “We have tried our very best in being constructive and avoid confrontation but the Government’s gamble goes to show Dr. Muscat and his parliamentary secretary Clint Camilleri – a hunter himself – do not have the courage to do what is needed and stand their ground.”
BirdLife Malta will be closely monitoring the season and illegalities. It cannot be that our dwindling countryside continues to be the sole domain of hunters and trappers. The government must enforce the law and ensure that hunters do not kill protected species.
Read the Maltese version of the press release here.