Spring hunting in Malta
Migratory birds make their epic journey twice a year: in autumn the birds migrate south, in spring they return to their breeding grounds. In the past, hunters used both opportunities to hunt the birds. The difference between the two times lies in the number and "quality" of the migrating birds: in autumn it is not only the breeding birds, but also their young and thus a larger number. Many of them die over the course of winter, so that in spring only a small group of survivors return north: all birds that then fly north are breeding birds and important for the preservation of the population. Each bird killed in spring means one less breeding pair and therefore no offspring. For this reason, hunting migratory birds returning to breed in spring is strictly prohibited in the EU.
Malta is the only country in the EU that opposes this regulation. Since joining the EU, the country has released quail hunting every spring for two or three weeks, as well as the highly endangered turtle dove until 2017. The EU Birds Directive allows exemptions from all rules if there is "no other satisfactory solution" to a situation. Malta's government takes the view that there is no other "satisfactory" solution for spring hunting, because the allegedly weak passage of quails (and turtle doves until 2017) makes successful autumn hunting impossible. With this legally and highly questionable justification Malta has managed to push this tradition through.