Questions on Malta and the EU
Hunting and Trapping
negotiated on hunting and trapping?
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.
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.
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.
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.
it is within Maltas right to use the derogation, Malta now has the added comfort that the EU is aware of and has acknowledged
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
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:
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.
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.