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Maltese Government permits spring hunting

Birds on pre-nuptial migration can be shot in contravention of EU legislation

Brussels, CABS and LRBPO during a meeting in the European Parliament to discuss spring hunting on MaltaBrussels, CABS and LRBPO during a meeting in the European Parliament to discuss spring hunting on MaltaIn spite of widespread international protest the Maltese government has once again permitted spring hunting. Hunter’s are permitted to shoot Turtle Dove and Quail from 24th to 30th a April although the EU bird protection guidelines quite clearly forbid this. All this only a few months after the Maltese government was found guilty by the European Court of Justice of illegally permitting spring hunting in 2006 and 2007.

In contrast to the previous seasons, which both lasted over 6 weeks with unlimited game bags, the Maltese government has on this occasion placed considerable restrictions on the hunters:

  • Only 3,900 Quail and 3,600 Turtles Doves may be shot.
  • Hunters must purchase a special licence for spring hunting at a cost of 25,- Euros.
  • The licence fees will be used to fund law enforcement.
  • Each hunter may shoot a maximum of 2 birds a day; and only 3 per licence.
  • Hunting is from Monday to Saturday only; hunting on Sunday is not permitted.
  • Hunting may take place from two hours before sunrise to midday only.
  • All licensed (special) hunters must wear a distinguishing armband.
  • As soon as a bird is shot the hunters must report this by text message to the authorities.
  • Offences against the law may be punished by loss of both the special and normal hunting licences, as well as other penalties.

These restrictions undoubtedly progress compared with the unrestricted and extensive hunting permitted in previous years in spring, when hunting bags were practically unlimited and the season covered almost the whole of the spring migration season

Hunting of birds on pre-nuptial migration can never be considered sustainable in these circumstances. The birds that arrive in Europe in April are those that have survived the winter. Each and every Turtle Dove or Quail now permitted to be shot on Malta represents the vital component of a breeding pair that will now not nest and produce offspring. This is bad news for the populations of two species that are already endangered.

Golden Oriole shot by a hunterGolden Oriole shot by a hunterBut that is not all. In the past many Maltese hunters have shown a complete disregard for the law. It is therefore to be feared that thise issued with licences will shoot more than the three birds permitted. And the restrictions, comprehensive as they may be, can hardly be checked. The very committed environmental protection unit A.L.E is completely undermanned for the task - one officer for every 1,000 hunters on the island.

Finally, the licence to shoot Turtle Dove and Quail is for some hunters an open invitation to illegally shoot birds of prey. Raptor migration is at its peak towards the end of April, with thousands of Honey Buzzards and Hobbies at the mercy of the hunters, now legally entitled to roam the countryside with their shotguns during this very period. If spring hunting was not permitted, each shot would represent an offence. Now the numerous poachers can mingle with the rest of the hunters. A blank cheque for such criminals.

This spring CABS will be present on Malta with a number of experienced teams and will monitor poaching hotspots and major migratory bird night roosts.