Protected Ospreys shot down by hunters, illegal finch trappers caught

March 22, 2021 1:51 pm

In the past days, with the first signs of spring migratory birds flying over the Maltese Islands, BirdLife Malta witnessed various illegalities that remind us of the rampant illegal activities that have become the norm in relation to trapping and hunting.

Yesterday, with easterly winds and an overcast that forced birds to seek refuge by flying towards Malta and Gozo, various birds of prey were observed all over the islands. Six protected Ospreys (Arpa) were also observed but unfortunately two of these magnificent birds of prey did not make it further to their breeding grounds when they were shot down by hunters in Gozo and Delimara.

Shot Osprey at Delimara, exactly when it was shot at

Start of spring bird migration over Malta marked with hunting and trapping illegalities

Stuffed bird collections are the main reason for such rampant illegalities in Malta mainly because a system that was in place to check all the lists of stuffed birds in collections stopped once the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) took over this remit. After two amnesties given by previous governments, those that had protected stuffed birds registered their collections with the Environment Department and a process to send qualified people to check these collections commenced. It was immediately evident that most collectors declared larger numbers than what they actually had. The reason for this was so that until they had their collections verified, they could keep on adding more birds to their collections as per their registered list.

This is still happening today and BirdLife Malta has been asking WBRU to acquire help from the Environment & Resources Authority’s professional personnel that have the qualifications to do this work for a number of years now.

Birds confiscated by police include all seven species of protected finches

Another illegal activity witnessed in the past weeks is illegal finch trapping which has never been so rampant during springtime. This is mainly due to the message sent by the Government that it intends to reopen a finch trapping season in autumn against the will of the European Commission. The birds being trapped right now will be sold to those that need live decoy birds in autumn. Through the good work of BirdLife Malta and Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) teams, over 140 finches have been confiscated by police since the beginning of March, with most of them being released back into the wild while others are being rehabilitated and will be released shortly once they gain back their strength.

BirdLife Malta also commends the efforts being shown by the Environmental Protection Unit (EPU). It is evident that the police officers within EPU seem to be willing to achieve results in bird protection law enforcement. We urge the authorities to increase the compliment of personnel in this unit and to provide them with all resources. We also ask the Malta Police Force to start allowing EPU to work in Gozo, an island which depends on the district officers at police stations to take any action. While in Malta we are seeing results, in Gozo we hardly ever see any initiative from the police.

EPU operations have also independently led to several illegal finch trapping cases being uncovered

BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana reacted: “Unfortunately, while the Government is challenging the European Commission and reopening both a spring hunting season and a finch autumn trapping season, we can only expect the worse for migrating birds. The respect of the law from hunters has dwindled to nothing while hunting lobby organisations have lost control of their members. This will only lead to thousands of protected birds being shot and trapped illegally and will inevitably place Malta once again in a defensive position at the European Court of Justice.

We will keep on insisting with the Government to take the right decisions but we ask the general public to join us in this call by following our ongoing #onthemove campaign and becoming members of BirdLife Malta. We will remain committed to saving more birds and to keeping the European Union informed of the sad state of our country when it comes to bird protection.”

Read the Maltese version of the press release here