News | Sunday, 31 January 2010

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NGOs pile pressure on Gonzi to decide on spring hunting

Eight Environmental NGOs yesterday joined forces in a bid at countering the hunting lobby’s demand to the Prime Minister, who is also the minister for the environment, to reopen spring hunting.
The hunters’ federation FKNK called on Lawrence Gonzi to “abide” by the European Court of Justice’s ruling, which has reportedly justified limited hunting in spring for turtle dove and quail.
Gonzi will have to decide whether to accept a recommendation from the Ornis committee, which groups the FKNK and BirdLife, on whether to open the hunting season or not.
The FKNK said it expected Gonzi to open the spring hunting season and apply a derogation from the Birds Directive, “no more and no less.”
But conservation NGOs BirdLife, Din l-Art Helwa, Friends of the Earth, Gaia Foundation, Ramblers, MOAM, FAA and Nature Trust yesterday said the Malta case on spring hunting remains open and that should Malta be found guilty a second time, then the country would face hefty fines at the Maltese taxpayers’ expense.
“Shooting of migratory birds just before they breed is not considered as a sustainable hunting practice and this is why the Birds Directive forbids it. Furthermore, the ECJ ruling clearly showed that Malta could not meet the conditions of a derogation,” BirdLife president Joseph Mangion said.
Member states have to meet all the conditions set by the Birds Directive to be able to derogate from the law, which effectively bans the hunting of turtle dove and quail in the spring.
BirdLife said that in the Malta case, the ECJ found that Malta failed to comply with the conditions laid down in the Birds Directive when it opened the season in the four uears since its accession to the EU.
“Despite this fact, the hunting lobby claims that a so-called ‘limited’ spring hunting season should be allowed because the court ruled that autumn does not seem to be an alternative to spring. However, the hunting lobby ignores the fact that Malta failed on the other conditions required for a derogation and thus the court ruled that Malta’s derogation was not lawful,” Mangion said.
BirdLife added that no other member state has so far managed to meet all the conditions to derogate from the spring hunting is banned throughout the EU. “It is not only absurd but also irresponsible to continue to press onwards with this issue any further,” Mangion said.
The environmental groups also slammed John Attard Montalto, Labour MEP, who in an article published last Thursday, stated the government should open spring hunting season and that he was elected thanks to the support of the hunters.
“As an MEP Mr Attard Montalto has a responsibility towards the country and not only towards certain interest groups. His statement is an insult to Maltese citizens who voted for him but are not in favour of spring hunting. He clearly belongs to the old school of politics and is far removed from the change this country needs in its style of politics,” the NGOs said.
“The opinion polls have repeatedly showed that the overwhelming majority of the Maltese population is against spring hunting. We urge the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to unite and put an end to the spring hunting saga once and for all,” the NGOs concluded.

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