A group of 10 environmental and cultural NGOs have joined the public call made by BirdLife Malta to urge Prime Minister Robert Abela not to open a spring hunting season this year.
In light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic where everyone was asked to remain indoors, “it is outrageous that the government will be allowing thousands of hunters to go out to hunt in spring,” BirdLife said in a statement.
Apart from the fact that spring hunting was unsustainable, the lack of the necessary resources to enforce such a derogation would only mean a massacre of protected birds.
The organisation’s call was backed by Nature Trust Malta, Friends of the Earth Malta, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Greenhouse Malta, Moviment Graffitti, Bicycle Advocacy Group, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Futur Ambjent Wieħed, Animal Liberation Malta and Ramblers’ Association of Malta.
Earlier this week, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter’s (CABS) said poachers were “taking advantage of reduced police resources,” as it documented and reported 18 cases of illegal trapping and two cases of hunting since March 9 despite the season being closed.
The NGOs are calling on the government not to open the hunting season for quail after the Ornis Committee recommended its opening yesterday between 10 and 30 April.
“In view of the fact that the police and security forces are stretched and involved in activities related to the COVID-19 crisis, it would not only be impossible for the police to enforce the law, but also a blatant lack of responsibility on the part of the government if the season had to be opened now,” BirdLife Malta said.
As the health authorities are urging the public to stay indoors and police resources are being stretched as they now started clamping down on groups of people and issuing fines, the move to open the hunting season was criticised by many.
Opening the spring hunting season, even for one species, quail, would be “the most irresponsible act by Prime Minister Robert Abela” since the conditions laid down by the EU Birds Directive state that for every 1,000 hunters, there had to be seven police officers or individuals to ensure that the law was enforced, BirdLife said.
Since the police were unable to guarantee strict supervision, CABS feared that illegalities related to hunting, such as shooting protected species or using forbidden electronic lures, would experience a sharp increase.
Birdlife has already been receiving shot protected species even though the season is closed. Birdlife Malta has said it received seven illegally shot protected birds – three Common Kestrels and four Marsh Harriers – over three days.
The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) said that since 9 March the organisation documented and reported 18 cases of illegal trapping and two cases of hunting despite the season being closed.