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Malta's preparations for EU membership:

A Maltese story of hunting and law enforcement

This is only one of many such reports emerging from Malta during the Autumn migration. Sadly such reports are repeated year after year. It is the more vicvid and poignant as it was written by a Maltese conservationist at the height of the bi-annual slaughter.

 

Those who had hoped that in the run-up to accession some restraint would be shown by the hunting community; and a stronger reaction by law enforcement agencies, were doomed once again to be bitterly disappointed. It is to be hoped that the EU commissioners can be urged to, or be shamed into, taking positive measures - not least effective and high profile monitoring - to bring those responsible for initiating and tolerating this carnage to their senses.

 

Thank you Max Farrugia for this evocative report.

 

David Conlin

Proact International

DISASTROUS DAY FOR BIRDS OF PREY IN MALTA (19th September 2003)

 

Following three days of torrential rain which hit the Maltese islands the sun came out again today. The rain left behind it hundred of thousand of Euros in damage but this sudden change in weather brought an another disaster this time - a natural one. Thousands of birds of prey which are on their migration tried to make it to a safer place but on reaching Malta they found an army of shooters ready for their slaughter. Hundreds of birds including Honey Buzzards, Marsh Harriers Glossy Ibis, Great White Egrets, Little Egrets, Purple and Grey Herons and a Pallid Harrier were killed. The hunting was not concentrated in one particular area of Malta but all over the country with the north and the south being the worst areas. The situation was an alarming one and the police force from the Administrative Law Enforcement section (ALE) due to the limited number of men could not cope with all the reports received. A spokesman for the police said that during the afternoon only they received more than a hundred calls. The police worked on a strategy and managed also to make some prosecutions. At the international animal rescue centre, during the afternoon only,  we received 9 injured Honey Buzzards, two Marsh Harriers, one Pallid Harrier, one Moorhen, one Kestrel, one Hobby, and two Egrets. This is a shameful situation. I would like to remind everybody that the European Union gave concessions to the Malta regarding hunting even though they all know that the Maltese hunters are amongst the most notorious in the Mediterranean. Shame to the EU commissioner and all those who agreed with this derogation.

 

Max Farrugia

International Animal Rescue (Malta)

 

HUNTING is:

SAVAGERY in the name of TRADITION

HYPOCRISY in the name of CONSERVATION

KILLING in the name of SPORT

 

 

 

UPDATE (20th September 2003)

 

BLACK DAY MALTA FOR MALTA DUE TO SLAUGHTER BY IRRESPONSIBLE HUNTERS

 

The number of birds reaching our injured birds centre continued to increase. On Friday up to as late as 23.00 hrs Malta time we collected seventeen birds the majority of which are birds of prey. This morning we continued receiving phone calls and other seven birds were picked up. Again out of seven four are Honey Buzzards, two Marsh Harriers and one gull species. Out of the 26 birds which entered our centre four died namely one Pallid Harrier, one gull, and two Honey Buzzards. These died due to multiple fractures which resulted from illegal lead pellets. The rest of the birds are doing quite well, but I cannot say how many of them will survive. International animal rescue during the last years campaigned against the giving of derogations by the EU to Malta because from previous experience we know that concessions and derogations will continue to help the slaughter by the irresponsible shooters who shot atanything that flies. EU  environment Commissioner Wallstrom promised that no concessions will be given to Malta, so did EU enlargement Commissioner Verheugen. The Malta Government went to Brussels for talks and negotiations: the EU caved in most probably due to political pressure. Not all the EU countries agreed on the concessions and derogations given to Malta. Among these were the continuing of trapping and shooting of birds during spring on limited number of birds. But the mistake is that even though they knew that the Maltese hunters shoot indiscriminatly they gave this concession. This is a big shame on the EU and Maltese authorities The Malta Information Centre  defined the agreement thus; The EU and Malta agreed that: Bird hunting will continue in spring: Bird hunting at sea will continue from 3 kilometres off the coast: Bird trapping will continue even in spring by the end of 2007: Malta will carry out a study to establish how many song birds may be captured from the wild: No new licenses for bird trapping be issued before the completion of the study: An Ornis committee is to be established. Hunters were being told by the government that their rights will remain as they were. The Ornis committee was set up and already worked out a list of birds with special protection. This committee is made out of hunters, government officials, Birdlife Malta and a chairman. Not all the falcons, harriers, and eagles are protected; this list is discriminatory against certain species because no scientific study was carried out to pin point the species. During today's massacre a number of special protected species were slaughtered. What action is the Ornis committee going to take? Is this just another committee with no powers at all or is it a political screen as it happens in other countries.? This is what bird protectionists are asking. We have to wait and see!

 
 
[Proact has highlighted certain important statements in bold text]

FAQ

 

Frequently-Asked Questions on Malta and the EU

 

Hunting and Trapping

 

Q 

What was negotiated on hunting and trapping?

A 

As a result of negotiations, Malta will continue to allow hunting in Spring for turtledoves and quail. Trapping of finches will also continue to be allowed.

For those who are not familiar with EU law on this subject, a background will help.

EU law on the protection of wild birds dates back to the 1970s. Contrary to popular perception, the purpose of this law is not to ban hunting, but to ensure that hunting is sustainable and does not endanger specific species of wild birds. Hunting therefore needs to be regulated and proper enforcement of hunting rules must be ensured. This does not mean that hunting should be banned. Simply that large scale shooting and capture of birds should be controlled. The law also lists birds that are protected and others that can be hunted. It also deals with methods of hunting and trade in birds.

Hunting has long been a controversial issue when it comes to EU membership. In Malta, the hunting lobby is very strong. Hunters often claimed that they oppose EU membership because it would ban hunting in Spring which is the time of the year when hunting is most possible in our country. By contrast, environmentalists have been less vociferous, but equally clear in their position they oppose hunting and argue that illegal hunting in Malta is rampant and should be controlled.

During negotiations Malta had to strike a delicate balance between these two divergent positions. It claimed that it accepted to apply EU law on the protection of birds. But within the framework of this law, it wanted to ensure that hunting and trapping should be maintained after membership.

Let us look at the outcome of negotiations on hunting and trapping respectively.

 

In Malta, the two main species that are hunted are turtledove and quail. Under EU law, hunting in Spring is normally prohibited so that birds can be protected during migration. However, during negotiations Malta declared that it will use a derogation from this part of the EU law so that hunting in Spring can continue in Malta for turtledoves and quail.

A derogation means that Malta would not apply a law or part of it. The possibility to derogate from parts of EU law on birds is available in the law itself and EU countries have a right to use it. The derogation applies for as long as the EU country - in this case Malta - wants to use it. However, the EU will monitor that the derogation is not abused by, for instance, allowing the shooting of species other than turtledoves and quail in Spring.

Although it is within Maltas right to use the derogation, Malta now has the added comfort that the EU is aware of and has acknowledged this position.

As a result, therefore, after membership Maltese hunters will continue to be able to hunt in Spring. In Malta, hunting is also allowed between in Autumn between September and the end of January each year. This season will not be affected after Malta's entry into the EU.

Apart from turtledoves and quail, hunting is also possible on another thirty species or so, mostly hunted in Autumn. These include the skylark (alwett), the song thrush (malvizz), the golden plover (pluviera) and the woodcock (gallina). This too will not be affected and can continue after Malta's entry into the EU. However, hunting in Spring will be limited to turtledove and quail, which are the two main species that are hunted at that time of the year. This means that other species will be protected during Spring.

Hunting at sea will also continue to be allowed, although Malta committed itself to more enforcement to curb illegal practices.

 

Trapping is a traditional method of capturing songbirds through the use of personally-operated nets. They are not killed but captured and kept in captivity.

After membership, Maltese trappers will continue to be able to practice trapping for a number of songbird species. These are: the goldfinch (gardell), the green finch (verdun), the chaffinch (sponsun), the linnet (gojjin), the hawfinch (taz-zebbug), the serin (apparell) and the siskin (ekru). Trapping will continue to be allowed provided that a number of measures are implemented by the end of 2007:

First, that a full captive breeding system will be established so that birds can be bred in captivity and the tradition of keeping songbirds in captivity will be maintained. Trappers will also be trained on breeding. Secondly, that a study will be conducted to assess the sustainability of trapping and establish how many birds may be captured from the wild to maintain the genetic diversity of the birds held in captivity. Thirdly, that all trapping sites will be registered. And finally, that during this period of study no new trapping licences will be issued. However, current licence holders will not be affected.

A point that came across very clearly relates to enforcement. Malta has long suffered from a less than satisfactory enforcement record. During negotiations, Malta committed itself to enforcing hunting rules and curbing illegal practices more effectively. One should expect Malta to be regularly monitored by the Commission on this commitment.

As part of the enforcement effort, an Ornis Committee will be set up before the end of 2002 which will include representatives of hunting and environmental organisations. It will decide on important issues relating to the study that needs to be conducted on trapping and on licensing and registration. It will also coordinate the collation of the carnet de chasse (which is a note of the birds caught by each hunter) and it will be able to introduce any necessary controls on hunting and trapping in case of a serious decline in certain species. The Committee may also decide on new species which may be hunted.

As I said, negotiations sought to strike a delicate balance between widely differing positions on this emotional issue. Whether that balance will be acceptable to both or either side is, of course, another story.

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