The Malta Independent 25 May 2024, Saturday
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UK Columnist calls on holidaymakers to boycott Malta – ‘the hunter’s paradise’

Malta Independent Thursday, 1 February 2007, 00:00 Last update: about 11 years ago

The Maltese government, and the country’s name as a whole, is being dragged through the mud again on the issue of spring hunting.

UK daily newspaper The Independent’s columnist Terrence Blacker yesterday called on Britons to boycott Malta as a tourist destination in view of spring hunting.

The writing of this piece comes shortly after the presentation of some 115,000 petitions being laid on the doorstep of Castille by BirdLife Malta and the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

In their statement, the two organisations called on the Maltese government to “face up to its illegal bird hunting and trapping shame” and to honour its European and international bird protection obligations against spring hunting.

Mr Baker wrote: “As if the winter months were not gloomy enough, there is news that many of the migrating birds which in a few weeks’ time will mark the beginning of spring may not be arriving here after all. They are being blown out of the sky by the Maltese.” He continued: “Although Malta is a member of the EU, it has been reluctant to discourage its citizens from one of their favourite activities – shooting and trapping birds as they migrate from Africa to Europe in the spring. The cuckoo, whose numbers in the UK have been plummeting, is a popular target.”

Calling on Britons to boycott Malta, Mr Baker concluded: “Since the Maltese Prime Minister, facing an election, prefers to ignore the issue, those considering Malta as a holiday destination might take more practical action and cross this hunters’ paradise off their list.”

BirdLife Malta president Joseph Mangion explained how the petition’s presentation coincided with an analysis of ring recoveries from migratory birds in Malta. The study showed how birds from no fewer than 47 countries, 35 European and 12 African, use Malta as a staging post during their migrations between Europe and Africa. Some 14 species, all of which are protected, have been trapped and shot illegally in Malta.

On the officialdom side, the government is currently at odds with Brussels over spring hunting and the issue is something of a political hot potato with a general election potentially in the offing as early as the end of the year.

The government intends fighting off Brussels’ regulations against spring hunting tooth and nail, but faces EU fines when the spring season opens in less than two months’ time. The EC has already sent the government a formal infringement notice on its breach of the Birds Directive, while a second reasoned opinion letter is expected at any time.

While Brussels has made it clear that the opening of the spring hunting season in Malta at the end of March will constitute an infringement of EU law, the third and final step will involve Malta being brought before the European Court of Justice.

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