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PRESS RELEASE 13 December 2016

Malta: CABS calls for end of season as illegal night trapping of plovers is out of control

Bird trappers on Malta and Gozo use the cloak of night as well as the absence of the ALE to illegally trap thousands of plovers and other waders, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) said today.

Golden Plover live decoyGolden Plover live decoyIn the last two weeks members of the organisation have conducted night patrols between 11pm and 4.30am to document the amount of birds trapped outside the allowed hours. “We have mapped 82 active trapping sites where illegal bird callers were used during the night”, CABS Wildlife Crime Officer Fiona Burrows said, “This is more than twice as many as found in 2015”.
CABS criticised that the ALE – the police unit responsible for hunting and trapping illegalities - was not on duty on any of the 8 nights when the teams were out and tried to report the cases to the unit. “In most of the cases we were told by police officers to wait until the morning and then report everything to the ALE”, Burrows reported. In two cases from San Lawrence (Gozo) and Zebbug the local police responded to the report and seized nets, callers as well as plastic decoys. In both incidents the trappers could not be identified as they escaped in the dark when the police arrived.

On Sunday early morning CABS alerted the headquarters again after the birdwatchers found a massive trapping site in Tal Qadi near Salina to be active at around 1.30am. Officers of the Naxxar police station followed the report, but had to wait until ALE were on duty after 5am when the ALE seized a 40-meters-long clap-net as well as several unringed Golden Plovers and a Lapwing used as live decoys. Also in this case the trappers fled and could not be apprehended.

Golden Plover live decoyGolden Plover live decoy“In all the other 79 cases nothing was done by the authorities as the ALE were not on duty, and district police were not equipped to deal with the incidents”, Ms. Burrows declared. “This contradicts the word of the Police Commissioner (CoP) who in January declared that the ALE working hours will be expanded to deal with illegal night trapping”.

The exact wording of the Commisioner´s statement can be found here

As Golden Plovers are a species of conservation concern in the EU the Maltese government has declared that trapping of this species will only be allowed under strict supervision and limited conditions. To ensure that only a small number of birds are caught the quota for this year´s season was officially set at 700 Golden Plovers which can be trapped in daytime. Trappers are obliged to report every bird caught by SMS, so that the season can be closed when the bag limit is reached. CABS said that this bag limit only exists on paper as trappers will never report birds caught illegally in the night. “Golden Plovers are mostly nocturnal thus making it very easy for trappers to catch whole flocks in the dark. With dozens of trapping sites operating every night it stands to reason that a four-figure number has been already caught illegally since November. The government´s total failure to curb with illegal night trapping has invited poachers to catch much more birds than allowed. The quota for plovers has been exceeded and the season should be closed with immediate effect", CABS Press Officer Axel Hirschfeld added.