Turtle-dove hunting in spring is illegal

November 10, 2022 12:40 pm

BirdLife Malta has today filed a Court case challenging the decision – taken by the Ministry for Gozo and the Environment Ministry – to open a spring hunting season in April 2022, on the Vulnerable European Turtle-dove (Gamiema). BirdLife Malta is challenging this decision, asking the Court to declare this practice as illegal, with a view to end the hunting of Turtle-doves in spring once and for all.

BirdLife Malta takes Government to Court on 2022 spring hunting season

European directives are the highest level of law for every EU Member State, superseding also the national Constitution.  As a European Union Member State, Malta has the obligation to adopt and abide by all the EU Directives including the European Birds Directive. This Directive is clear in stating no birds can be hunted during spring, a time when birds are heading towards their breeding grounds. While it allows for an element of derogation, this is heavily controlled and it is clear that hunting species that are of a Vulnerable status breaches the European Birds Directive.

·       Shot European Turtle-dove (Gamiema). Photo by BirdLife Malta

Following the 2015 referendum, the Turtle-dove’s status continued to weaken and it was declared by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Vulnerable. This, however, did not affect the Maltese Government at that time, and hunters were still allowed to kill Turtle-doves in spring. In fact, when Malta opened its last spring hunting season for the Turtle-dove prior to the self-imposed moratorium in 2016, the European Commission had set the wheels in motion to initiate legal action against Malta. This was shelved by the Commission once the Maltese Government cunningly created the moratorium.

Earlier this year, during the electoral campaign prior to the March General Election, Minister for Gozo Clint Camilleri and then Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia both proclaimed and promised, more than once, that Turtle-doves will be hunted again in the following spring seasons. After the election, the moratorium was revoked and this paved the way for the Government to open a spring hunting season for Turtle-dove once again.

In view of this scenario, although there are indications that the European Commission is considering opening an Infringement Procedure against Malta, BirdLife Malta feels it has an obligation to also fight such illegalities at the national Law Courts.

BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana stated: “The national Law Courts have the responsibility to safeguard the values of the European Directives. They cannot transfer this responsibility onto the EU Courts, especially when EU citizens and civil society demands it. Malta’s Courts can always ask the European Commission to act as a court expert, to explain why such a hunting season during the breeding season on a bird species which is scientifically proven to be in a Vulnerable status, breaches the European Birds Directive. No small amount of birds shot can justify this derogation, let alone a political decision that aims only to appease those that promised their votes.”

BirdLife Malta is being legally represented and assisted by lawyers Dr Mark Soler and Dr Claire Bonello.

Read the Maltese version of the press release here.

You can also access the Rikors Ġuramentat presented in Court by BirdLife Malta here.