The opening of the spring hunting season now would be the most irresponsible act by PM Robert Abela

March 31, 2020 12:23 am

Any decision by Prime Minister Robert Abela to consider opening this year’s spring hunting season for one species, the Quail, would be the most irresponsible act ever. Whilst the general public is being asked to stay at home in view of the global threat posed by the COVID-19 virus – with stricter rules issued just yesterday announcing that groups of four or more people caught in public will now be fined – Cabinet has requested an urgent meeting of the ORNIS Committee to rubber stamp a spring hunting season.

Shot Marsh Harrier recovered from Dwejra (Malta). This was one of seven illegally shot protected birds received by BirdLife Malta over the weekend (Photos of the other six illegal hunting casualties can been seen below)

The opening of such a season would also be highly irresponsible in view of the fact that the conditions to derogate from the EU Birds Directive – that Malta is expected to adhere to and respect – require that for every 1,000 hunters there should be seven police officers or persons to see that the law is enforced. In view of the fact that the police and security forces are stretched and involved in activities related to the COVID-19 crisis, it would not only be impossible for the police to enforce the law, but also a blatant lack of responsibility on the part of the Government if the season had to be opened now.

Cabinet requests urgent meeting of ORNIS Committee to rubber stamp a spring hunting season

BirdLife Malta would also like to remind Prime Minister Robert Abela that in the present situation hunters and trappers are openly flouting the law, going out hunting when this is prohibited at this time of the year, and many active trapping sites are illegally trapping many songbirds, when trapping in spring has been illegal for the last decade or so. BirdLife Malta calls on the Prime Minister to show moral courage and take decisions in the general interest of the country. At this juncture, BirdLife Malta understands that the health of the country is a priority, but it cannot accept that the protection of nature takes the back burner.

The hunting and trapping lobby cannot continue to hold politicians at ransom and BirdLife Malta calls on the Prime Minister to take a clear and unequivocal stand in favour of all communities and nature in general. BirdLife Malta also reminds Dr Abela that the illegal decision to place the ORNIS Committee, the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) and the Conservation of Wild Birds Regulations under Minister for Gozo Clint Camilleri, continues to undermine the promise that this Government will be committed to environment protection. According to Malta’s enviromental laws, Minister Camilleri does not have the legal remit to take decisions on hunting and trapping.

We need to take action. The decision or consideration of opening the spring hunting season will take us back to the middle ages. BirdLife Malta is calling on the Prime Minister to openly state that the spring hunting season in 2020 will not be opened because the delicate situation we’re in today calls for  restraint and responsibility.

As can be seen from the video we’re releasing today, just this weekend BirdLife Malta received another seven illegally shot protected birds – three Common Kestrels and four Marsh Harriers. All these were shot down between Friday and yesterday, and were confirmed as illegal hunting casualties by the government veterinarian.

Read the Maltese version of the press release here.