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Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS)
PRESS RELEASE 21 December 2015

Bird trappers have catched “several hundred” plovers illegally in the night - Police refuse to take action, Quota already reached

Golden plover as live decoyGolden plover as live decoyMalta. Night surveys of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) have unveiled massive illegal night trapping of Golden Plovers and total inaction of the district police on the matter, CABS said. According to the organisation its teams have reported 14 cases of illegal night trapping to the police headquarters since November but did not observe any direct action. To support its claims the NGO has published exact-to-the-minute protocols of cases where its teams reported illegal trapping activity but tried in vain to convince the police to do their job. “The problem is that the ALE, who normally deal with trapping cases, are only very rarely on duty during the night and that the local police feel that they are not responsible ”, CABS Wildlife Crime Officer Fiona Burrows reports.

Two trapping sites in Siggiewi and Santa Lucija were each reported by CABS on two different nights but the police officers on the phone continuously explained that they were understaffed or underequipped to come. On several occasions the police also claimed that it is not their job to enforce trapping regulations and in one case from 30 November the officer on the phone told the volunteers that they had instructions not to go. One trapping site on the Delimara peninsula was reported to the police on the 13, 15, 18 and 30 November but in all four nights the police did either not attend or the officers on the phone said that they were instructed not to come. In three cases the officers of the district police told the volunteers that they would inform the ALE in the next morning but could do nothing else. Only one case is known where charges have been issued after the ALE visited a site reported by CABS in the previous night. It is understood that the trapper will be charged with the use of illegal Lapwing decoys.

“What we have observed is close to anarchy. Plovers are trapped illegally every night and in every part of the island. Most trappers use electronic bird callers marking loud and blatantly the areas where illegal trapping takes places with impunity. Although it would be easy for the police to apprehend the culprits or at least dismantle the nets and switch off the callers, the district police either do not come at all or decline to do something”, Ms. Burrows explains. CABS also said that it had reported this insupportable situation to the WBRU weeks ago. In its reply the unit informed CABS that permanent night operations of the ALE are not feasible due to costs and logistics involved. This is in stark contrast to the government´s statement that outside the allowed trapping hours “at least two Police officers or marshals shall also be on duty”. The statement was published by the Ministry of Environment and can be found here: https://environment.gov.mt/en/Documents/Downloads/WBRU/Autumn%20Trapping%202013-2014%20Customer%20Care%20FAQs-EnglishMaltese%20version.pdf

CABS said that Golden Plovers are mostly nocturnal thus making it very easy for trappers to catch whole flocks of birds during night hours. As trapping is illegal two hours after sunset and two hours before sunrise birds trapped in this period will not be reported thus making it impossible for the government to close the season when the quota is reached. Trappers are obliged to report every bird caught by SMS, so that the season's bag limit is monitored in real-time. To ensure that only a limited number of birds is caught the quota for this year´s season was set at 700 Golden Plovers. “Based on our observations it can be estimated that a high 3-figure number of plovers has already been caught illegally in the nights since November. If one adds this to the birds which have been legally caught during the daytime the quota is exceeded. We therefore urge the government to close the season for Golden Plovers with immediate effect”, CABS president Heinz Schwarze said. He also said that a detailed report about the lack of enforcement will be sent to the European Commission.

Case protocols as pdf

Illegal night trapping reports by CABS and police response – protocols of cases from November and December 2015:

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Case protocols illegal plover trapping Malta Nov and Dec 2015 - CABS.pdf116.77 KB