Updated with map of trapping sites.
Trapping seasons for Golden Plover, Song Thrush, and Finches have been opened by Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri, in charge of hunting and trapping regulations, following an ORNIS committee vote last week recommending their approval.
The seasons, which will run between October and December, are all subject to infringement proceedings by the European Commission. The derogation for a Finch trapping season is particularly controversial given it was opened for ‘research’ purposes, circumventing a European Court of Justice ruling against the practice.
In its 2020 infringement proceedings triggered by Malta’s derogations, the Commission had said, “Even though the declared objective is ‘research’, several elements indicate that the scheme – in practice – allows for a large number of birds to be captured without being reported.”
The seasons’ opening requires a derogation from the European Union’s Birds Directive. Legal Notices are published annually announcing the deviations from EU directives.
Legal notice LN/248/23 allows for the trapping of 7,000 Song Thrush between 20 October and 31 December and 500 Golden Plover between 1 November and 10 January. The ‘research’ derogation, LN/237/23, allows for trapping seven Finch species between 20 December and 20 October with no quota.
BirdLife Malta has called the ‘research’ trapping season a “smokescreen”, noting that the Environment and Resources Authority, represented by a member of the ORNIS committee, had abstained from voting on the recommendation, which led to the seasons’ opening. BirdLife Malta representatives were the only ones to vote against the season’s opening.
BirdLife has published a map showing the location of almost 4,000 trapping sites registered with the Wild Birds Regulation Unit. More than 2,600 are permitted to trap finches for ‘research’ while another 1,364 are permitted to trap Song Thrush and Golden Plover.
In a Facebook post announcing the opening of the ‘research’ season, the hunting lobby FKNK called for adherence to the regulations, calling on trappers to “show the EU how effective our trapping is for research when compared to BirdLife Malta’s bird-ringing programmes.”
Previous hunting lobby recommendations adopted by the ORNIS Committee have been widely criticised. In response to a recommendation for opening a Spring hunting season last March, BirdLife Malta said the committee’s recommendations were “based on insufficient data”.
In response, the European Environment Commissioner sent a letter to Camilleri, who oversees hunting-related decisions, expressing his “deepest concerns”. Camilleri vowed to “keep what’s ours, ours.”
The ORNIS Committee comprises three hunting lobby representatives, two BirdLife Malta representatives, one Environment and Resources Authority representative, three government-appointed ‘independent’ representatives, and one birds expert.