If the Government trusted the hunters, they have clearly abused of it this spring hunting season

April 21, 2018 5:06 pm

With the spring hunting season coming to an end today at noon, illegally shot birds collected from the public, police and BirdLife Malta clearly indicate this has been one of the worst spring hunting seasons in past years and definitely worse than last year’s. With 17 protected birds confirmed shot by the veterinary being the tip of the iceberg this season, which was supposedly open only for Quail, should put to shame all those that defended it in the first place.

Illegally shot protected Turtle Dove retrieved from Delimara on Thursday 19th April 2018

To make things worse, on the second year of the hunting moratorium on Turtle Doves, the change in dates chosen by the Government – against all scientific data and against the Environment & Resources Authority’s advice – was indeed a smokescreen for hunters to target this vulnerable species. With reports from the field still fresh and eight Turtle Doves found shot, it is clear that this year there were thousands of this species shot over our islands, in particular during the past days when shooting at this protected bird spiralled out of control.

“If the Government believed it could trust the hunters and they would not shoot on anything but Quail during this season, it should feel cheated by them today. Changing the dates of the season to coincide with the peak season of Turtle Dove was a big mistake that should embarrass the Government and those who advised it to do so” stated BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana. “We can only but hope that the Government understands that it cannot continue accepting the wrong advice on the issue of spring hunting while we promise to push for the European Commission to investigate whether this decision to allow hunting during the Turtle Dove’s peak migration goes against the spirit of the European Birds Directive and any form of derogation from it.”

17 illegally shot protected birds recovered this season, two more than last year’s, half of them protected Turtle Doves

The spring hunting season of this year has taken its toll on protected birds migrating over the Maltese Islands like no other spring season in the past few years, with the total of 17 illegally shot protected birds recovered since the start of the season including also several birds of prey, all found by members of the public. 12 of these were recovered by BirdLife Malta while the remaining five were passed on to the police. Nearly half of the shot birds recovered this season (8 out of 17) are Turtle Doves which goes to show that the red-listed vulnerable Turtle Dove was targeted by hunters this season, with thousands shot in the past few days.

Another dead Turtle Dove found in Delimara on the last day of the season

On Thursday, Friday and today our teams in the countryside observed hundreds of Turtle Doves being shot down in several parts of the country and our offices were inundated with calls from the public reporting what many described as “a massacre” taking place on protected Turtle Doves across Malta and Gozo, with reports coming in from all over Malta and Gozo.

During last year’s spring hunting season we had received a total of 15 illegally shot protected birds, which means that this year we had two more casualties. This goes to show that despite promises of improved enforcement, more protected birds where shot in 2018 compared to last year, with half of them being vulnerable Turtle Doves on which there was supposedly was a moratorium in place.

We call on the public to continue monitoring any illegalities they may encounter as illegal hunting normally continues even after the end of the season. Any shots heard in the countryside from now on mean that an illegality is taking place and should be reported. For more details and guidance on how to report illegal hunting please visit the hunting section on our website.

Read the Maltese version of the press release here.

Click here for the list of illegally shot protected birds retrieved by BirdLife Malta and the police during this year’s spring hunting season on 1st April.

Watch the videos of the lastest casualties of the 2018 spring hunting season here.

The five Turtle Doves retrieved just in the last three days since our press conference on Thursday