Turtle-dove quota superseded

April 28, 2022 11:22 am

BirdLife Malta believes that after a week since the opening of a spring hunting season on the European Turtle-dove (Gamiema), the quota of 1,500 catches has been superseded. The migrating numbers of Turtle-doves and the intensity of hunting activity witnessed since the opening of the season on Turtle-doves on the 17th April are amongst the indicators, apart from a higher participation of hunters this season making use of the countryside, including public areas that could not be enjoyed by the general public. Various illegalities such as through the use of illegal electronic callers have intensified the killing of this Vulnerable species in past days.

Under-declaration of hunted birds and lack of control of quotas remains a major problem

BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana stated: “There isn’t a doubt in our minds and in the minds of anyone else with some common sense that the data submitted by hunters related to their catches is purposely under-declared in order for the season to remain open irrespective of the number of Turtle-doves hunted. We have seen under-declaring over and over again, and once again we have to stop beating around the bush and call this farce a farce. Assuming that every day during the first week of the season, only 400 hunters caught just one Turtle-dove each on each day of the week, this unrealistically conservative scenario would already reach the figure of 2,800 Turtle-doves, nearly double the national hunting bag limit for this species.”

European Turtle-doves hunted in a day during this year’s spring hunting season (Photo by BirdLife Malta)

The hunting season which originally opened on the 10th April for Common Quail (Summiena) and from the 17th including the European Turtle-dove has witnessed a myriad of illegalities recorded from BirdLife Malta’s Spring Watch on a daily basis. Apart from the illegal targeting of Turtle-doves ahead of the 17th April, the 12 days of season have to date been characterised with daily widespread illegalities from the use of electronic callers and the trapping of Turtle-doves using cage traps and clap nets. Teams have counted over 300 shots in a singular morning from a singular location mostly aimed at Turtle-doves during good migration days in the past week.

The Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU), which is the unit receiving all data from hunters declaring their catches, has to date failed in securing the participation of hunters in its game reporting system, and this year’s supposedly limited season is promising to be no different with most hunters not declaring catching anything.

“Hunters have participated in this year’s hunting season for Turtle-dove in force, resorting to all means possible to secure a maximum catch,” commented Nicholas Barbara, BirdLife Malta Head of Conservation. “Since the very evening of the 16th April we’ve seen hunters hoisting up all forms of Turtle-dove decoys in their hunting grounds, and electronic callers for Turtle-dove are now the new spreading phenomenon”.

The red-listed Turtle-dove numbers continue declining in Europe with a ‘Vulnerable to Extinction’ status by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), despite the Maltese Government’s decision to lift a moratorium established in 2017. This year, an EU Task Force appointed by the European Union on the Recovery of Birds had even requested that the hunting of Turtle-dove is banned across all EU Member States in 2022. Government and WBRU officials privy to such information still however moved ahead in opening the season.

While against all the efforts and the direction of the European Commission and Member States, the Government of Malta forged ahead with its political decision to concede to the hunting lobby’s requests to open a spring hunting season on the protected Turtle-dove, the least the hunting lobby members could do was to be genuine, fair, responsible and disciplined. Clearly, this is not the case and although this comes as no surprise to us, it is high time this is declared unacceptable by all, including the European Commission.

The current spring hunting season is nothing more than an uncontrolled deliberate and indiscriminate cull of a species facing extinction, under the guise of a derogation to a Birds Directive aimed at conserving Europe’s birdlife. Malta’s spring hunting season is illegal, immoral, and unethical and sheds only shame to those who have allowed it to happen.

Read the Maltese version of the press release here.