European Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius condemned Malta’s decision to open a spring hunting season for Turtle dove last year, expressing his “deepest concerns” in a letter to Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri, which The Shift is publishing.
In the letter sent recently, Sinkevičius outlined how Malta’s decisions to ignore recommendations against the opening of a Turtle dove spring hunting season do not just have a local impact but go against “the collective and dedicated efforts of the Commission, Member states and stakeholders to halt the population decline and begin the recovery of the species.”
Last February, the European Commission initiated infringement proceedings addressing Malta’s spring hunting derogations, sending an additional letter of formal notice calling for the spring hunting of Turtle dove to cease immediately, given its vulnerable status in Europe.
The Maltese government is again challenging the EU Birds Directive this year, having issued a derogation to open a spring hunting season for Quail on Thursday.
It also called for an expedited court hearing of a prohibitory injunction on spring hunting for Turtle dove initiated by BirdLife Malta, hoping also to open a spring hunting season for the vulnerable species.
In an effort to combat the opening of a spring hunting season for Turtle dove, BirdLife Malta initiated a prohibitory injunction, which the court provisionally upheld on 3 April.
Through the injunction, the government cannot issue a legal notice to open a spring hunting season for Turtle dove until the hearing.
The hearing was initially set for 18 April, well into the spring hunting season, which generally ends around 30 April.
In a retaliatory move, the government has called for the hearing to be expedited, asking for it to be heard on Thursday or Good Friday, and accusing BirdLife of recycling arguments it has already made in previous years.
In the letter, Sinkevičius reminded Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri, given the hunting portfolio because he is a hunter himself, of Malta’s decision to refrain from opening a spring hunting season for Turtle dove from 2017, based on the species’ vulnerable status in the global Red List of birds and of the negative trends observed in the EU.
Sinkevičius wrote that “These circumstances have not changed. There is in fact more evidence showing an ongoing population decline, based on updated scientific data”.
The European Commissioner then drew attention to an updated technical recommendation calling for “zero take” of Turtle dove in 2022 by the Task Force on the recovery of birds under the sub-expert group on the Nature Directives (NADEG).
He noted how any derogations that go against this recommendation “would breach several provisions of the Birds Directive as well as the commitments expressed in the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030”.
Only last year, Prime Minister Robert Abela, only weeks before the 2022 general elections, announced that the moratorium would be lifted, with a derogation for the spring hunting of Turtle dove reintroduced.
In comments on a Facebook post on 5 April, Minister Camilleri reposted a video from his 2022 electoral campaign where he vowed to “keep what’s ours, ours”, referring to the ‘tradition’ of spring hunting while failing to acknowledge that both Turtle dove and Quail are a migratory species.
In a protest on 30 March, BirdLife Malta restated its position against the spring hunting of Turtle dove. It said the ORNIS committee’s decision to recommend the opening of a season was based on incomplete and unreliable hunting data.
Camilleri imbarazzament nazzjonali. Kuntent iħalli lill-Għawdxin mingħajr sptar suret in-nies, imma l-aqwa li jħalli lill-kaċċaturi jisparaw għax dawk importanti iżjed mill-morda.
What the heck does the FKNK – and its protectors – care about the ‘collective efforts’?
One expression, and in one voice, their cry is ‘F…. the EU and its darned regulations’
1.The truth is that hunters do not need to hunt for food these days.
2. There are other options such as clay pigeon shooting where they can practice shooting.
3. This practice pollutes the air and soil with harmful chemicals which harm humans and the biodiversity.
4. Ultimately hunting should evolve into bird watching.