Minister mum on result of studies from bird trapping ‘research’

Minister Clint Camilleri and the government’s Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) have refused to publish studies resulting from the finch trapping ‘research’ derogations for the last three years, fuelling suspicions it was a “smokescreen” to circumvent EU rules.

While finch trapping was allowed under the derogation since 2020, the regulatory unit has only published a single reference report upon the derogation’s introduction, more than three years ago.

Apart from that report, no new studies have been published using the ‘research’.

The unit’s refusal to answer The Shift’s questions comes amid an ongoing European Court of Justice (ECJ) case initiated by the European Commission against Malta. The case concerns infringements of the EU Birds Directive.

Other annual reports published as part of the unit’s remit to monitor and regulate hunting and trapping in Malta did not publish data obtained through the ‘research’.

Both the minister and the regulation unit have refused to answer The Shift’s questions despite reminders and electronic confirmation that they have collectively viewed the newsroom’s emails more than a dozen times.

In comments to The Shift, Birdlife Malta Head of Conservation Nicholas Barbara said the WBRU claimed the reports exist but were not being published due to the ongoing infringement proceedings at the European Court.

The European Commission started infringement proceedings against Malta on the ‘research’ derogation in December 2020, with the case referred to the ECJ in November 2021.

Hearings concluded earlier this month, and the court is expected to reach a decision in the coming months.

The Shift has reported how the Maltese government has spent more than €100,000 on a direct order for a Spanish legal expert to bolster its defence at the hearings.

Malta defended its position by raising procedural technicalities. Minister Camillieri claimed in a social media post that Malta also presented research obtained from the derogations.

Earlier this month, ahead of the hearings, environmental NGO Birdlife Malta submitted a report to the ECJ claiming the ‘research’ was an “embarrassment to science.”

The organisation said the derogation was used as a “smokescreen” for tens of thousands of protected finches to be illegally taken into captivity across thousands of trapping sites.

Trappers were meant to capture and release live finches to inform studies on their migration patterns and numbers.

The ‘research’ trapping season was the second time Malta implemented a derogation to depart from the EU Birds Directive for trapping. Further derogations have been made to allow for spring hunting seasons.

In 2018, the European Court had already ruled that a previous derogation for trapping was unlawful.


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28 days ago

Dear Shift Team,
thank you very much for this article on behalf of a wildlife and bird-loving person.
In addition, the article tells me how harmful and vile the PL is behaving in order to buy a few more votes.
Malta is so much better and so much more than them.

Leonard Schembri
Leonard Schembri
28 days ago

I think that the Minister and his merry men are still collecting their data. Maybe in another 3 years, they will publish their research results. But it could also be that the dog ate it and they are all embarrassed to say so.

28 days ago

Hasn’t it been obvious that it was a smokescreen all along?

simon oosterman
simon oosterman
28 days ago

No surprise here. Saying anything at all can only make it worse.

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