Hunting

The hunting season is now open.

The 2021 autumn hunting season will run between 1st September 2021 and 31st January 2022. There are 40 legally huntable species from land and 12 legally huntable species at sea.

To read more about autumn hunting together with a list of huntable species with pictures, and for a detailed guidance sheet about the season, click on the tab below.

In other tabs you can also find details on how to report illegal hunting and about spring hunting in Malta.

Autumn hunting

Each year the autumn hunting season in Malta runs between 1st September and 31st January (both days included). Hunting during autumn is permitted for 40 species from land and 12 species at sea. Of these, the European Turtle-dove (Gamiema) can only be hunted between 1st September and 30th September. The overall bag limit for the autumn hunting season for Turtle-dove has this year been reduced to 500.

Want to know what is permitted or illegal during the autumn hunting season? Download the guidance sheet we prepared for the autumn hunting season in Maltese or English, with details about the season and photos of all 40 huntable species.

Laws & reporting

Any illegalities during the closed and open seasons should be reported immediately to the police on 119, asking to be transferred through to the Environmental Protection Unit (EPU), previously known as the Administrative Law Enforcement (ALE) unit.

Please then report to BirdLife Malta on 2134 7645/6 or on the emergency (out of office hours) number 7925 5697.

If you need any extra help, download our step-by-step guide in Maltese or English on how to report illegal hunting to the police.

Illegal hunting

Every spring and autumn, Malta becomes a vital stepping stone for birds using this migratory route to move between European breeding and African wintering grounds and the islands act as a place to rest and regain fat supplies before continuing on these long and taxing journeys.

Due to its strategic location on this key migration route, Malta has a long and impressive species list, totaling 389 species that have been recorded. Of these, over 170 occur with regularity on migration, in many cases in significant numbers. Scientific ringing studies carried out by BirdLife Malta since the 1960s have shown that birds from at least 48 countries use Malta during migration. Malta also has an exceptionally high density of hunters and per square kilometre has the densest population of hunters in the European Union.

Illegal hunting is a widespread and serious problem, with poachers specifically targeting raptors (birds of prey) and Herons as well as rare migratory birds such as  the Greater Flamingo, Black Stork and Eurasian Spoonbill, among others. This persecution reaches its peak during migration periods. Furthermore, illegal hunting continues throughout the year and it is primarily due to this intense persecution that Malta has the dubious distinction of being the only country in Europe and the Mediterranean with no regularly breeding birds of prey. Species such as the Barn Owl and the Eurasian Jackdaw have become locally extinct with the last breeding pairs known to have been shot by hunters. Since 2007, BirdLife Malta has been keeping a centralised database on illegal hunting and trapping incidents witnessed by BirdLife Malta staff, ornithologists, volunteers and members of the public known to the organisation. Other reports from unknown individuals and hearsay reports are not included in this database. An analysis of the database is published annually.

Spring hunting

Spring hunting for Quail in Malta is currently the subject of Infringement Proceedings initiated by the European Commission against the Maltese Government in December 2020. According to the Commission, this derogation falls short systematically of the requirements set out in the legislation, related in particular to poor supervision of the conditions set out in the derogation, 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 derogation. 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.

Common Quail is the only legally huntable species during the spring hunting season in Malta (Photo by SEO/BirdLife Spain)

In 2021 spring hunting in Malta, only for Common Quail (Summiena), was permitted between the 10th and the 30th of April (both dates included) from two hours before sunrise till 12pm every day of the season. All other bird species were protected, including the European Turtle-dove (Gamiema). A total of 8,222 hunters applied for the hunting licence.

Although in 2021 spring hunting was supposedly permitted only for Quail, the chosen dates for the season overlapped with the peak migration of the turtle-dove. Despite being a protected species that is red-listed by the IUCN as vulnerable to extinction and currently exempt from spring hunting by a moratorium, the extension of the season further towards the end of April puts migrating European Turtle-doves at enormous risk from illegal hunting. BirdLife Malta monitored the hunting season with the aim of reporting and documenting the killing of protected species, especially the turtle-dove.

Want to know what was permitted or illegal during the spring hunting season? Download our Illegal Hunting Activity Guidance Sheet in Maltese or English for the spring hunting season.

For more information about spring hunting in Malta and the differences between the huntable Quail and the protected European Turtle-dove click here.