The vulnerable Turtle Dove is still being illegally hunted even though the spring hunting season has only been opened for Quail.
This “will ensure that Malta is listed as a cause of extinction of the species rather than one which protects it,” BirdLife Malta President Darryl Grima said at a press conference on Thursday.
At the press conference held in front of the Office of the Prime Minister, BirdLife presented a dead Turtle Dove recovered from Delimara, “a notorious illegal hunting spot”.
“The hunting season is virtually already open on Turtle Doves, with hunters out en masse mostly to hunt them and not Quail,” BirdLife said.
The decision of Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri, who is also responsible for hunting, to open the Turtle Dove season between 17 and 30 April is “based on false data disregarding the periled conservation status of the species” BirdLife said, citing recent European Union data showing a declining trend in the specie’s population.
BirdLife Malta has filed a prohibitory injunction against the opening of the spring hunting season for the vulnerable species, which was provisionally upheld and will be deliberated in court on Friday after the government pushed the hearing forward from its original date of 18 April.
BirdLife noted that its Spring Watch teams have noted Turtle Doves being killed daily over the few past days, with other illegal incidents having been observed.
These include the targeting of protected species such as Marsh Harriers, Pallid Harriers and Montagu’s Harriers.
The European Turtle Dove has been listed as a vulnerable species since 2015. Malta halted its derogation for Turtle Dove spring hunting in 2017, only for Prime Minister Robert Abela to reintroduce the practice just weeks before the 2022 general elections in a clear move to appease the hunting lobby.
A recommendation for the opening of a Turtle Dove spring hunting season this April was tabled by the ORNIS Committee on 29 March on the basis of a report by the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU), which contradicted other studies by stating that the Turtle Dove population was on the increase.
BirdLife Malta explained how it is in court “contesting the science behind such flawed calculations, especially given the fact that top experts and scientific institutions regard the European Turtle Dove as continuously declining”.
At a press conference on 30 March, BirdLife said the recommendation had been based on incomplete and unreliable data.
BirdLife recalled how during a meeting of the EU’s Task Force on the Recovery of Birds, which WBRU officials attended, “Experts recommended a Europe-wide suspension on the hunting of Turtle Doves to mitigate the continued loss of the species, and even singled out Malta”.
BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana, referencing one of the minister’s Facebook posts, remarked, “Camilleri’s notion of ‘Dak li hu tagħna, jibqa’ tagħna [What is ours, will remain ours]’ is a valueless motto when it comes to the Turtle Dove.
“These are not birds that belong to Malta but to the European countries where these birds nest and for which conservation efforts are in place to ensure they make a recovery.”
Malta has been the subject of a number of European Commission infringement proceedings related to its hunting and trapping derogations from EU law and, in February, it escalated infringement proceedings against Malta over the hunting of Turtle Doves.
Last week, The Shift published a letter from EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius sent in May 2022 that lambasted Minister Camilleri for continually ignoring EU recommendations. Sinkevičius said that Malta was reversing collective efforts made by other European countries to safeguard the species.
Recovered from a freezer maybe.
What a foolish comment.
Only an idiot would shoot a defenseless bird out of the sky and call it sport.
And when is birdlife going to start fighting overpopulation (excessive buildings) in this country? Which is one of the biggest bird killers, way worse than hunters by a landslide. What is going to happen if birdlife wins and most fields disappear to make way for more high rise buildings? Which of course will keep reducing the bird population. Anyone with half a brain knows that human greed is what is killing all wildlife(removal of nature, over farming, pollution, pesticides etc) Makes you think why birdlife malta is fighting so much against hunters . Hunters have enough regulations, everyone knows they are not the problem. (I don’t need to go in public with a dead animal for sensationalism. These are facts that prove people who should be doing something are useless, they go for easy targets taparsi et naghmlu xi haga).