European Union takes action against Malta on all ongoing hunting and trapping derogations

December 3, 2020 6:53 pm

All ongoing hunting and trapping derogations currently being applied in Malta are now the subject of Infringement Proceedings initiated today by the European Commission against Malta and the Maltese Government.

BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana (left) and Secretary General Saviour Balzan addressing the media (Photos by Katarzyna Pacon)

In a press conference earlier today, BirdLife Malta reacted to the news announced by the Commission that it has kicked off new infringement cases against Malta on:

  • The spring hunting derogation allowing hunting of Quail, which it terms as a smokescreen for the illegal hunting of protected European Turtle-doves.
  • The trapping derogation allowing trapping of Golden Plover and Song Thrush, which it termed as not being properly enforced and resulting in other species being killed.
  • The trapping of finches for research purposes – a derogation which was enacted for the first time this year in defiance of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling of 2018 and which the European Commission says is circumventing the ECJ judgement by  permitting trapping of finches in similar conditions as before the ruling, even if under the guise of a new derogation.

In the first step out of three which the European Union can take against any country for failing to abide to European legislation – in this case the European Birds Directive – the European Commission has issued two Letters of Formal Notice to Malta. The Government now has two months to reply to the Commission’s arguments and remedy the situation. Failure to do this would lead to the Commission issuing what is called a Reasoned Opinion, which would be a second warning against Malta. The third and final step would be Malta being taken to the European Court of Justice.

European Commission kicks off two new infringement cases on spring hunting and on trapping, deplores current situation in Malta and calls on the Government to discontinue the practices

In the press release issued today announcing the environmental infringement decisions against several countries on a number of topics, the European Commission called on Malta to discontinue these practices because they are causing the indiscriminate and deliberate killing of wild birds in breach of Article 5 of the European Union’s Birds Directive.

During the press conference, BirdLife Malta Secretary General Saviour Balzan, CEO Mark Sultana and Head of Conservation Nicholas Barbara called on the Government to heed the EU’s warnings and immediately suspend the derogations. They insisted that the fact that the action by the European Commission on the new finch trapping derogation comes only a few weeks after the commencement of the season, clearly shows that the EU is, rightly so, sceptical about this so-called “scientific study” and proves BirdLife Malta right in its earlier statements.

The Commission also called on Malta to correctly apply the Birds Directive which requires a general system of protection for wild birds and allows derogations only subject to strict conditions. The press release states that the European Green Deal and the European Biodiversity Strategy indicate that it is crucial for the EU to halt biodiversity loss by protecting and restoring biodiversity.

Explaining in detail the situation in Malta, the Commission says that “Malta has authorised derogations for the spring hunting of Quail every year since 2011 and derogations for autumn live-capturing of Song Thrush and Golden Plover each year since 2012. These derogations fall short systematically of the requirements set out in the legislation, related in particular to poor supervision of the conditions set out in the derogations, which results in other species than those targeted being affected. Relying on insufficient or inaccurate information about the populations of wild birds and the available alternatives, Malta also failed to fulfil the basic conditions for granting such derogations. Not least, the high numbers of wild birds illegally shot in Malta constitute a major and systemic failure to establish a general system of protection as required by Article 5 of the Birds Directive.

Separately, Malta has also recently authorised finch trapping for research purposes, having authorised finch trapping for recreational purposes for several years, an action which was found to be non-compliant with the Birds Directive by the Court of Justice of the EU. In particular, the Commission considers that the new derogation scheme adopted in October 2020 authorising the trapping of finches for research purposes circumvents the judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU, by permitting trapping of finches in similar conditions as before this ruling, even if under a different regime”.

Read the Maltese version of the press release here.