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Press release 13.05.2011

Malta: Lifelong ban for illegal hunters expected

“A milestone for bird conservation"

CABS and BirdLife Malta today greeted the announcement by the Maltese Government that in future convicted poachers are to lose their hunting licences for life. According to media reports published on Sunday new tough penalties for breaching hunting regulations will be announced by the government this week.

Hunters who shoot protected species - like this Honey Buzzard - are likely in future to lose their licence for life(© Birdlife Malta).Hunters who shoot protected species - like this Honey Buzzard - are likely in future to lose their licence for life(© Birdlife Malta). CABS representative Axel Hirschfeld sees this as a positive step: “Such legislation would represent an unambiguous challenge to poachers and a clear signal to the European Union that no more compromises are to be made to the detriment of our migratory birds”.

Nevertheless both organisations emphasised that in addition to the killing or trapping of protected species and hunting in the closed season, more severe penalties must be imposed for other offences against hunting legislation, including the use of illegal firearms, the use of electronic decoys and shooting in the immediate vicinity of built-up areas.

BirdLife Malta Executive Director Paul Debono said “This spring has shown that there are many hunters who will break the law if they feel they are not being watched. This shows that the legal system is not working as a deterrent. We urge government to adopt a zero tolerance policy for all illegal hunting and trapping.”

Two recent cases highlight the problems with the current legislation. Last Wednesday a person previously apprehended by the ALE for possession of 10 dead protected birds received a fine of €2,000 from one magistrate. Another magistrate the day before imposed a fine of €500 to a person for illegal possession of 70 dead protected birds, including vultures, eagles, kites and other rare birds protected under international law. In both cases the fines were issued within the parameters of the law. This shows that the law is too ambiguous and allows for large differences in sentences. Many fines issued are mere slaps on the wrist. Hunters and trappers convicted of illegalities are often back out in the field a short while later; such as two brothers who have been reported seven times over the past 24 months by BirdLife Malta and CABS, for illegal trapping of protected species in Zurrieq.

However, this new regulation has been reported as relating only to poaching of protected species and hunting out of season - many other types of illegalities that are committed on a regular basis are reportedly excluded. BirdLife Malta and CABS emphasize that the law needs to lay down more severe minimum sentences for all hunting and trapping offences. Furthermore hunting licenses should be permanently revoked for all serious hunting and trapping contraventions.

The reported change in regulation comes after BirdLife Malta and CABS recorded an increase in the illegal targeting of protected birds during this years spring hunting season. According to unconfirmed reports the changes will be adopted in the coming days.

A report in the Times on Sunday on the matter can be read here: Undisciplined hunters facing lifetime ban .