WBRU has no idea how many Turtle-doves have been shot this spring

April 29, 2022 8:09 am

Yesterday’s statement issued by the Gozo Ministry shows WBRU has no control over derogation

Following our press release from yesterday where BirdLife Malta stated that the Turtle-dove national hunting bag limit was exceeded within a week from the opening of the spring hunting season, we have noticed a weak and rather frantic attempt by the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) in a three-line statement by the Gozo Ministry to state that it is monitoring the situation and the bag limit has not yet been reached.

BirdLife Malta has to point out that even if WBRU had to monitor the hunting season, it can never mitigate the under-declarations made by a hunting community which is motivated to do so, and that it should clearly admit that it is not capable of having the real picture on the amounts of Turtle-doves killed on the Maltese Islands. We also challenge WBRU to honestly state that its digital game reporting system has been suffering serious problems, making hunters unable or unwilling to participate.

BirdLife Malta believes that the Turtle-dove hunting bag limit was exceeded within a week from the start of the spring hunting season

In the past weeks BirdLife Malta received information even from a few genuine hunters that the system adopted by WBRU is not working and that when they tried to log in their catches they couldn’t get through. The informants substantiated their claims with comments within hunting lobby groups, including screenshots which BirdLife Malta is now sharing with the media.

BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana stated: “Once again we have to repeat that this is nothing but a farce and had it not been the cause of indiscriminate killing of the Turtle-dove, which is nearing extinction, this would be laughable. To the contrary, however, this is a serious matter and WBRU has failed in its commitment to safeguard this derogation making it not just illegal – because it targets a bird with a Vulnerable status – but also because there is no strict control. We have lost faith in convincing the Government to do the right thing and are expecting the European Commission to challenge this breach of the EU Birds Directive with urgency.”

According to the derogation currently in place, hunters are obliged to declare any shot Turtle-doves to the WBRU, which is the unit responsible for issues relating to quotas and hunting licences, and to justify such derogation to the European Commission. A limit of 1,500 Turtle-doves is currently in place for a season spanning from the 17th to the 30th April for over 8,000 licensed hunters, and if such a hunting bag limit is reached earlier than the 30th April, as we believe it was, the season on Turtle-dove would be declared closed.

Traditionally, spring hunting derogations have seen a limited declaration of a few hundred birds during the last few days of the season to prevent the season closing earlier than the 30th of April. Such last-day catches have obviously been proven to not correlate with any Turtle-dove migration influxes over the Maltese Islands during the last days of the season!

Read the Maltese version of the press release here.