BirdLife Malta would like to congratulate Hon. Dr Anton Refalo and Hon. Dr Aaron Farrugia for their recent appointments as Ministers in the new Cabinet of Prime Minister Dr Robert Abela. While it is still unclear which ministry will cater for the conservation and protection of wild birds, biodiversity and the natural environment, BirdLife Malta believes that these should remain under the Environment Ministry, and has already shared its concerns on the way forward in line with Malta’s European and international obligations and responsibilities.
“BirdLife Malta looks forward to working with new Cabinet Ministers, concerned on the way forward”
It is imperative that environmental law enforcement, including that of wild birds, becomes a priority in order to curb the constant illegalities that have remained on the increase without any effective enforcement for the recent years. Statistics held by BirdLife Malta show an upward trend in the number of protected birds being illegally shot and we have for the past years called for a proper Wildlife Crime Unit to be set up within the Malta Police Force to focus on such crimes along with an enforcement unit under the Environment Ministry. This call was unanimously supported by the ORNIS Committee.
BirdLife Malta reminds the newly-elected Government Cabinet that Malta as an EU country has various obligations and commitments to adhere to, including the European Birds and Habitats Directives along with European Court judgements and open Infringement Proceedings. Further breaches of these obligations would be unjustified and irresponsible.
Another point is the need to avoid having biased persons as either advisors or officials within units or departments that aim to protect the natural flora and fauna of our country. No officials should have any affiliations with NGOs in order to avoid conflicts of interest and instil back the credibility needed in areas which, today, hold very little credibility.
Our final concern is that Malta and Gozo need more protected areas and the country needs to safeguard the few pockets of natural habitats that we have. Malta – the most built-up country in the EU – needs to make sure that in regard to such protected areas biodiversity is given priority, for the enjoyment of the general public. Needless to say, no more areas should be designated as hunting sanctuaries especially since our society already allows thousands of hunters the privilege to roam all over the countryside, including in Natura 2000 sites, with loaded shotguns for over eight months every year.
BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana stated: “Flowers, trees, birds, wetlands and all biodiversity in natural habitats are the few elements our society can still enjoy today, free of charge. The Government has a social obligation to safeguard this. Now more than ever, the people of Malta and Gozo are voicing the need to protect the environment and to allow everyone to enjoy it without destroying it, killing it or spoiling the opportunities of others to enjoy it. BirdLife Malta has worked for this aim for 58 years and we are willing to continue to collaborate with all stakeholders for the benefit of the common good.”
Read the Maltese version of the press release here.