The hunting season is now closed.

The autumn hunting season was open between 1 September 2018 and 31 January 2019 and hunting was permitted for 40 species from land and 12 species at sea. Of these, the Turtle Dove (Gamiema) could only be hunted between 1 September 2018 and 30 September 2018. The overall bag limit for the autumn hunting season for Turtle Dove was set at 7,000.

Laws & reporting

The hunting season is now closed. Any illegalities should be reported immediately to the police on 119, asking to be transferred through to 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.

Want to know what was permitted or illegal during the last autumn hunting season? Download our guidance sheet in Maltese or English for the autumn hunting season. 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

Last year, in spring, hunting was supposedly permitted only for Quail, yet the chosen dates for the spring hunting season were specifically designed to coincide with peak Turtle Dove migration. Despite being a protected species that is recognised by the IUCN as vulnerable to extinction and currently exempt from spring hunting by a moratorium, the move in dates for the 2018 spring hunting season put migrating Turtle Doves at enormous risk from illegal hunting. You can read more about the 2018 spring hunting season by clicking here.