Opening of the spring hunting season is unfair on society

April 8, 2020 6:58 pm

Whilst the Maltese and Gozitan people are being asked to stay indoors and avoid unnecessary outdoor activities, one miniscule section representing 1% of the population will from tomorrow be allowed to roam the countryside and shoot birds. The opening of the spring hunting season at such a delicate time is unfair towards the population who has come together to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Apart from this injustice, BirdLife Malta reminds the Government that spring hunting is against the EU Birds Directive for the simple reason that birds flying to their breeding grounds should be protected, not shot.

The COVID-19 situation has also put a lot of strain on the Police Force and one seriously doubts how much the Government can afford the necessary amount of enforcement officers to control the hunting situation in spring as requested by law. The Government will need to deploy around 35 police officers in Malta and another seven in Gozo to work during the hunting hours which are from two hours before sunrise until noon.  BirdLife Malta has already communicated with the European Commission about this issue along with the fact that once again the Government has chosen the dates of spring hunting for Quail to coincide with the peak migratory season of the vulnerable Turtle-dove.

This season which will open this Friday and runs until the 30th of April is designed as a smokescreen for hunters to shoot at the protected Turtle-dove along with a number of other protected birds. The lack of enforcement and lack of discipline by the hunters themselves augurs only another spring massacre with many illegally shot protected birds. In fact to date since the closure of the last hunting season BirdLife Malta and police have already received 21 known illegally shot protected birds. All these were shot down during the closed season, with the latest being two Common Kestrels, a Lesser Kestrel and even a Barn Swallow – all shot down during the last weekend, as can be seen in the video we’re releasing today. We are also releasing footage of a protected Purple Heron being shot at by hunters over Xrobb l-Għaġin last Sunday, which continues to prove the extent of rampant illegal hunting going on in the countryside during the closed season.

Shot Common Kestrel from Baħrija
Shot Barn Swallow from Żejtun
Shot Common Kestrel from Kerċem, Gozo
Shot Lesser Kestrel from Mtarfa

BirdLife Malta Conservation Manager Nicholas Barbara said: “In view of this we will strive to be a deterrent to illegalities and our Spring Watch camp will focus on particular areas known to be hotspots for illegalities. While visiting various areas in the countryside we will be in constant touch with police. We clearly need their cooperation as much as they need ours. We also need the general public to report any illegalities they witness to police on 119 and to us on 7925 5697.”

BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana added: “The spring hunting season should never be opened for various conservation reasons, however this year the pandemic crisis just adds another relevant reason. If there was ever any doubt on the egoistic practice of hunting, this becomes clear when during a collective national effort to control the pandemic crisis by the general public, the hunting lobby looks solely at its own members’ interests. This contradicts drastically with the way BirdLife Malta and other eNGOs work, that is for the common good of the country.

To make things worse we have a Prime Minister who considers the hunting lobby as a privileged section of society, even when hunting itself is already a privilege. All this means that we need to work harder and we are calling on the general public to support us now more than ever. We are grateful to the independent media, to civil society in general and to many personal contributors even close to the Labour Party who have expressed their disapproval about this decision. We urge others to stand up and be counted and to the general public to join us in this fight to safeguard our natural heritage.”

Read the Maltese version of the press release here.

Click here for more information about the spring hunting season and a step-by-step guide on how to report illegal hunting to the police.

You can also click here to learn more about the main differences between the huntable Quail and the protected Turtle-dove.

Footage showing the most recent four illegal hunting casualties recovered over the weekend, together with a protected Purple Heron being shot at by hunters at Xrobb l-Għaġin