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Spring hunting plans not compatible with EU law


EU threatens Malta with sanctions

Another successful step in our campaign against spring hunting. The European Commission has called upon Malta to abide unconditionally by the judgement of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). In 2009 the ECJ ruled that Malta had contravened its obligations under the Bird Protection Guidelines by opening a spring hunting season for Turtle Dove and Quail in the years 2004 to 2007. An official environmental complaint by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter and its partner organisations had led to a process being initiated at the time in Brussels against the Mediterranean island state.

A press release by the European Commission reads: “The Commission is concerned that new framework legislation seeking to permit spring hunting in future years does not comply with the Court ruling. It has therefore decided, at the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, to issue a Letter of Formal Notice under ongoing infringement proceedings. If the necessary actions are not taken by the Maltese authorities, the Commission may decide to take Malta back to Court to request financial penalties. On 10 September 2009, the Court of Justice ruled that Malta, by permitting the spring hunting of turtle doves and quails in 2004-2007, had failed to implement the Birds Directive properly. The Court had particular concerns about proportionality.

In April this year, Malta informed the Commission about the adoption of framework legislation that would permit the spring hunting in future years of a maximum of 25,000 birds (12,000 Quail and 13,000 Turtle Doves), with a three-week hunting season. An in-depth appraisal has led the Commission to conclude that the principle of proportionality is not being respected in Malta's plans. The Birds Directive effectively bans spring hunting to protect birds during their most vulnerable period. The Court of Justice ruled that any derogation from this ban must be proportionate with the overall conservation objectives of the Birds Directive.

The Commission is concerned that the framework for Malta's spring hunting legislation for future years does not comply with the Court ruling because it fails to fully address the principle of proportionality. Three main reasons are singled out: there is no obligation to consider the conservation status of the species in question when setting bag limits; there is no provision to consider the possibilities for autumn hunting in that year before opening a spring season; and the maximum limits established in the legislation do not suffice to ensure the maintenance of the population of the species concerned at a satisfactory level. As a result, the Commission considers that Malta has not complied with the ruling by the Court of Justice. A letter of formal notice is therefore being sent. If the necessary actions are not taken by the Maltese authorities, the Commission may decide to take Malta back to Court to request financial penalties.”

Sources: European Commission Press Office, Committee Against Bird Slaughter