Operations against finch trapping on Malta
Finch trapping with nets has a long tradition on Malta. Particularly sought after are greenfinches, chaffinches, goldfinches, siskins, linnets and hawfinches. The birds are kept in tiny cages and sold at the pet markets. Until Malta's entry into the EU, bird-trapping was permitted on a regular basis in spring and autumn and was then repeatedly authorised for years through legally questionable derogations. First it was banned in spring, but since 2017 it is also no longer permitted in autumn.
Unfortunately, this does not stop hundreds of finch trappers setting their sites and trapping birds regardless of the law. Every year in March and October they prime their nets, place their live or electronic decoys and go trapping for finches. Other songbirds are also targeted such as as ortolan bunting, short-toed larks and red-throated pipits.
Malta is a predominantly flat island, the trapping sites are almost always hidden behind high walls and difficult to see. At the beginning of the trapping season in March and October, CABS charter a small aircraft and conduct aerial surveys to record the scale of situation and map out active sites for investigation by our ground teams. The aim is to catch the perpetrators illegally trapping in-situ. The police do seize the nets we record, but the poachers quickly replace the lost trapping gear. Bringing them to justice is therefore our main objective during these operations.
As soon as we observe bird trappers on an active illegal operated trapping site, the police are immediately informed and the perpetrators filmed. Often the police arrive late or are seen as they arrive in the open countryside and the poachers quickly flee before they are collared. Many trappers also have a network of watchmen who alert them of our presence. However, with covert and long range surveillance, the men can usually be identified and subsequently brought to justice. This method is becoming increasingly difficult because the perpetrators often mask themselves.
Our CABS members are summoned as witnesses to the court hearings, which means a follow up trip to Malta. Many of the perpetrators reported by our teams are found guilty, but in contrast to the poaching with guns - with which high penalties are imposed - the penalties remain very mild in relation to finch trapping. In rare cases the perpetrators are fined around 2000€. And nevertheless continue to pursue their hobby once more.