The Malta Independent 21 May 2019, Tuesday

TMID Editorial: Spring hunting - Let’s enjoy nature, not kill it

Monday, 11 March 2019, 10:07 Last update: about 3 months ago

This year’s spring hunting season will open in a few weeks’ time and, unfortunately we can expect that there will be many hunting illegalities.

We say this in view of the fact that over 60 protected birds were reported shot during the autumn season. Despite the mounting illegalities, the authorities once again failed to step up enforcement and the fight against illegalities, so forgive us for being pessimistic but one can safely predict that the upcoming spring season will also be a bloodbath.

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In opinion piece published in The Malta Independent on Saturday, Birdlife Malta CEO Mark Sultana described how Malta lies at a very vital strategic position for bird migration and is particularly attractive for birds flying towards Europe after passing over the arid deserts of Africa.

But while the our country is well-positioned for a much needed rest for these migratory birds as they head towards their breeding grounds, Malta also presents a number of problems.

Scicluna pointed out that the density of hunters in Malta per square kilometer is staggering. In fact, in Malta there are around 40 hunters per square kilometer of land.

And apart from the sheer number of hunters, there are serious issues when it comes to enforcement and the observance of laws.

A recent analysis carried out by this newspaper found that the number of birds that hunters report as catches compared with the number of illegally shot protected birds recovered by BirdLife Malta seem to point towards a trend wherein less birds are being reported as having been legally caught.

One of the most startling statistics that emerges from a simple year-by-year comparison of the birds that hunters report as having legally caught - something which they must do by law - shows that there has been a decrease of 98.29% in the amount of birds reported shot between 2013 and 2017.

Furthermore, hunting illegalities do not only take place on land, where law enforcement is greatly lacking, but also at sea, where it is virtually non-existent.

But there are other issues as well that threaten the balance of nature, including the fact that our precious countryside is disappearing day by day. Sultana highlighted the fact that 33% of our land area is built up, meaning that green spaces for the birds to roost are always decreasing.

Birdlife Malta has just launched a mini-campaign about the beauty of spring and the importance that this season has in nature. This includes, of course, the migration of thousands of birds north and south, many of which stop in Malta for a much needed rest.

The organisation is urging people to admire nature as much as they can, including by visiting the various nature reserves and Natura 2000 sites that are found around the country. In order to encourage families to make the most of spring, BirdLife has announced extended opening hours for its Simar and Għadira Nature Reserves

Spring is the best time of the year to explore and take in the beauty of nature.

We truly hope that the authorities take hunting illegalities more seriously this year and ensure that people can admire nature as it is supposed to be.

Hopefully, people taking up Birdlife’s advice can witness birds flying in the sky rather than being shot down.

We also hope that, like Birdlife, the state, particularly the education authorities do more to teach today’s generations to appreciate nature the way it is.

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