BirdLife Malta demands closure of hunting season at sea following massacre of protected ducks

January 17, 2019 12:23 pm

While yesterday’s Ornis Committee meeting was in session, BirdLife Malta received news that a flock of protected Shelducks were being shot off the northeast coast of Malta. BirdLife Malta officials alerted the Administrative Law Enforcement (ALE) unit of the Malta Police Force and the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) while footage and photos of this massacre were being collected. The investigations on this case will continue although the fact that ALE were not capable of dispatching a sea vessel allowed the culprits to have enough time to escape. Luckily the owner of the boat in question has been identified, yet it still has to be confirmed whether ALE have enough evidence to prosecute at this stage. Over 10 Common Shelducks (Kuluvert tas-Salib in Maltese) from a flock of 23 were observed being killed at sea.

Off St. Paul’s Islands, 16th January 2019. A boat photographed with three hunters on board, one of them picking up one of the ten Shelducks gunned down in the area after being chased by a boat. Shelducks are protected species and hunting at sea is prohibited within 3km of the coastline. (Photo by BirdLife Malta)

In view of this, BirdLife Malta asked the Ornis Committee to approve a motion  recommending the closure of the hunting season from sea. This was done since it was clear from the number of injured seabirds observed during the past two months – including yesterday’s incident – that illegal hunting at sea was not being controlled by the ALE.

Malta’s bird protection laws are in spirit aimed to protect birds and should the law or the state not have enough resources to control illegalities, then the Minister, as has happened in the past, not only has the right but also the obligation, to stop the season. When this happened in the past, the message of zero tolerance was clear and hunting illegalities reduced, although sadly last year (2018) was the worst year in the past six in terms of the illegal killing of protected birds.

The Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FKNK) downplayed this illegality and did not have the decency to condemn it, while stating that closing the hunting season at sea would constitute a “collective punishment”.

BirdLife Malta’s proposal was obviously voted down, with the votes against coming from the hunters’ federation and the three government representatives as well as with the abstentions of the Environment & Resources Authority (ERA) representative and the Ornis Chairman.

BirdLife Malta reminds the Government that despite the outcome of the vote taken yesterday, its rights and obligations still remain and that its statements of zero tolerance are yet to be seen in action. In view of this, BirdLife Malta reiterates its call on the Government to take action and show for a fact that the rampant ilegalities are not tolerated, by closing the season. It also reminds the Government that the majority of people in Malta care for the environment and that the only collective punishment in Malta is towards our society which is being denied the enjoyment of the countryside and the beauty of bird migration due to the rampant illegal hunting taking place.

Read the Maltese version of the press release here.

Shelducks at Salina Nature Reserve, part of a flock of six which landed at the reserve earlier this week, two of which had visible gunshot injuries as can be seen in the picture. (Photo by BirdLife Malta)

Another photo showing the injury to the wing of one of the Shelducks. More details here and in this link. (Photo by BirdLife Malta)

Common Shelduck, Kulvert tas-Salib in Maltese. (Photo by Denis Cachia)