Prime Minister should not open spring hunting season, hunters are not a privileged section of society

March 27, 2020 1:11 pm

While the country is doing its best to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, the Prime Minister should understand that hunters are not a privileged section of Maltese society. It is absurd that at this delicate moment the Government even considers to open a spring hunting season for this year.

BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana stated: “If Minister for Gozo Clint Camilleri – who has no legal rights over the environmental laws – or any other Cabinet member, open a spring hunting season, this would be highly irresponsible. It is unacceptable that in 2020 the government continues to be spineless towards a lobby which does not show any respect for Maltese society and which has lost control of its own members. Hundreds of hunters are aware of the present situation so much so that they are abusing the lack of public and police presence in the countryside to literally do what they want. These organisations – without any shame whatsoever – are even going as far as insisting with the Goverment to open a spring hunting season!

Apart from the fact that at the moment the Government has far more important priorities, this is surely not the time to burden police with more enforcement at such a delicate juncture, especially when the spring hunting derogation requires strict monitoring. Spring hunting is also unsustainable as it allows the killing of birds flying north to their breeding grounds.”

Hunting organisations have no control on their members who are taking advantage of the situation with a lack of respect for society, number of protected birds illegally shot this week

The adult female Osprey with shotgun injury to left wing which was recovered from Xagħra, Gozo on the evening of the 26th March 2020. The bird was examined by the government vet and found to be suffering from a shattered elbow joint as a result of illegal hunting. (Photo by Nik Barbara)

In the past weeks BirdLife Malta teams observed several episodes of illegal hunting and trapping. Reports received by BirdLife Malta from the public indicate widespread illegal hunting on hundreds of herons, waders and birds of prey which have seeked shelter in the Maltese Islands, particularly last Wednesday 25th March 2020. The illegal hunting incidents were mostly evident in Gozo. Some of the members of the public who contacted us explained how they witnessed first-hand a number of hunters with guns in the countryside around Malta and Gozo. All this is happening during the closed season.

In the past days a number of birds of prey were recovered, including an Osprey, all confirmed as having been illegally shot. Yesterday, in just 24 hours in fact, BirdLife Malta also received a Common Kestrel and a Lesser Kestrel, together with an Eleonora’s Falcon received earlier – all illegal hunting casualties.

It is also worth reminding that in the case of any decision to be taken in regard to the spring hunting season, the situation remains in limbo following the illegal decision to place the hunting and trapping remit under the Gozo Ministry – a diabolical move which led BirdLife Malta to take the Government to Court. BirdLife Malta deems any action or decision to be taken in this regard as illegitimate if not taken under the Minister for the Environment, as stipulated by Malta’s environmental laws. We also hope that the Environment Minister is not used as a rubber stamp for the Gozo Minister’s decisions.

Whilst spring migration has now started for several bird species, BirdLife Malta will continue monitoring activity in the countryside and collaborating with police as is its duty. We thank the public for their support in reporting illegalities. At this particular moment in time we should continue to assist the authorities in their work, and in view of this we call on the general public to continue reporting and helping us reduce such incidents. At the same time BirdLife Malta continues to hope for an end to the Coronavirus crisis in the country and thanks the authorities for the valuable work they are doing.

Read the Maltese version of the press release here.

Following this press release, BirdLife Malta wrote to the Hon. Prime Minister Dr Robert Abela. In the letter, delivered by hand, the Prime Minister was asked not to open the hunting season. In a statement released to the media together with the open letter, BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana stated it is clear that the Government’s message to hunters and trappers in this regard is conflicting and unclear. The Government’s position should be clear: no hunting and trapping in these circumstances. BirdLife Malta insisted that PM Abela should have the courage to take decisions and should not give in to blackmailing tactics by the hunting and trapping lobby which considers itself as some privileged section of our society. Read the full letter here.

Shot Common Kestrel retrieved from Żebbuġ
Shot Lesser Kestrel found at Luqa
Video edit with footage of the three illegally shot protected birds recovered in just 24 hours yesterday, including the Osprey. (Footage by BirdLife Malta, editing by Nathaniel Attard)