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News | Wednesday, 10 March 2010 Issue. 154

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BirdLife urges action against Malta

BirdLife’s European partners urged the European Commission to take action against Malta, should the Maltese government announce its decision to open yet another spring hunting season.
The group said the decision would put “tens of thousands of migratory birds en-route to their European breeding grounds at peril.”
The government’s controversial decision is expected soon after the Ornis committee recommended that the season be opened for April 10-30.
BirdLife said the decision will coincide with a recent international petition against illegal bird killing and spring shooting in Malta by BirdLife, which has received over 100,000 signatures and will be handed to the Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi.
BirdLife Malta declared that Government has once again caved in to pressure from the hunting lobby, even though the hunting of these birds in spring is not permitted under the EU’s Birds Directive.
“Last September the European Court of Justice concluded that Malta’s previous spring hunting seasons between 2004 and 2007 were unlawful,” BirdLife president Joseph Mangion said.
“So far Lawrence Gonzi has not taken any effective steps to stop the ongoing and widespread illegal killing of protected birds. Rather than embracing the EU’s pro-nature culture our Prime Minister seems more intent on appeasing the hunting lobby in order to gain their votes by opening another spring shooting season. He should know that another open spring season will make it almost impossible for the limited police force to cope with widespread illegal killing.”
BirdLife also reminded the Maltese authorities that the European Commission’s ‘Hunting Guide to Birds Directive’ clearly states that derogations should not be granted for bird species that are declining in the EU.
Both Turtle Dove and Common Quail are listed as species of conservation concern in Europe with declining populations and according to EU law they cannot be hunted in spring just before they breed.
“The Commission’s previous measured approach against Malta clearly did not work as Malta presses on this issue as usual, despite last September’s European Court of Justice ruling,” Mangion said.
Widespread illegal killing and trapping of protected birds has been well documented for many years. With the highest density of hunters in Europe and less then 25 police officers with only a few vehicles to check on them, Malta continues to be the black spot for bird conservation in the EU.
BirdLife Malta and its European partners are urging the new EU Commissioner for Environment Janez Potočnik to “put an end to Malta’s disregard to EU laws before it has a domino effect and other member states start opening spring hunting seasons in contravention of the Birds Directive,” the group said.


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