Despite a bird trapping ban in spring, poachers have paved the Maltese coastline with hundreds of illegal clap-nets to catch finches and other songbirds, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) said today.
"An aerial survey from last week revealed a record number of 133 active trapping sites concentrated in coastal areas on one single morning. One problem area is Dingli Cliffs with at least 20 sites being operated directly under the eyes of the tourists visiting the area. Illegal trapping sites have been also found in the middle of wheat fields, as well on the roof of Fort Ricasoli in Kalkara, a historic bastion which is under the management of the Malta Port Authority. Gozo has the greatest concentration of trapping sites, even more worrying due to the lack of ALE there," a CABS statement read.
"This is a shocking number of nets, twice as many compared to last year. Opening the legal finch trapping season in autumn has definetely amplified the amount of illegal spring trapping. With more ressources and with an approval to conduct joint operations with CABS the police would be easy to put an end to this within weeks. Instead we see trappers catching thousands of birds with impunity," CABS Wildlife Crime Officer Fiona Burrows said in a statement.
Since last week CABS volunteers have reported 9 trappers to the police after filming them actively trapping. On average the police needed 40 minutes to meet with the volunteers and on no occasion managed to make a direct arrest. "The majority of the trappers have accomplices who keep watch and inform them as soon as a police vehicle enters the area", Ms. Burrows stated. CABS also said that some trappers used balaclavas, hats and sunglasses to avoid being identified. A video with some sample footage showing illegal sites and a trapper removing his equipment has been uploaded on Youtube.
CABS Press Officer Axel Hirschfeld said the situation proved that Malta is not complying with its zero tolerance towards trapping illegalities" and that police are not able to do their job due to a huge lack of resources. Last week we received information that the ALE only have one patrol on duty. It is hard to believe that this is just a planning error. It seems likely that the government is actively preventing police action upon trappers by limiting police resources to nearly zero during peak finch migration", Hirschfeld said. "The government will have to deal with the repercussions of deliberately protecting poachers from prosecution, which is in defiance of the EU´s Birds Directive", he added.
CABS announced that it will send a complaint against Malta for "the de facto tolerance of illegal bird trapping in spring" to the European Commission (EC) "which has already referred Malta to the European Court of Justice over its finch trapping season in autumn. In a response to the accusations of the EC the WBRU has claimed that a strict supervisory and enforcement regime that comprises an elaborate system of legal and regulatory controls and deterrents against violations, as well as a robust field enforcement system on the ground, have been put into place".
CABS argues that the report is smoke and mirrors. "In reality the government is turning a blind eye to illegal trapping during the closed season. Photo by CABS