The Malta Independent 4 December 2021, Saturday

Hunting And trapping keep young people away from drugs – KMB

Malta Independent Saturday, 29 May 2010, 00:00 Last update: about 9 years ago

Former Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici insisted yesterday that Mizieb, like an area in Ahrax tal-Mellieha, was not given to the Hunters’ Federation (FKNK) by means of any form of emphytheusis or land transfer agreement.

Rather, the federation was given the responsibility of taking care of the areas, and it was given the right to use it for the purposes of hunting and trapping, Dr Mifsud Bonnici told The Malta Independent.

“In my opinion, hunting and trapping practices help young people stay away from drugs. It’s better having birds killed than young people killed because of drug abuse.”

On Thursday, BirdLife Malta issued a report that was drawn up following an 18-month monitoring process in Mizieb.

Just before the 1986 elections, Dr Mifsud Bonnici had written a letter to FKNK, promising the federation the use of the land, and it was later endorsed by then Deputy Prime Minister Guido de Marco.

The conservation organisation demanded accountability for what it referred to as the misappropriation of the Mizieb woodland and the widespread illegal development.

The organisation claimed that there was no legal ground validating the transfer of public land for its use as a private hunting ground.

But Dr Mifsud Bonnici said Mizieb, as well as an area in Ahrax tal-Mellieha that was also reserved for hunting and trapping purposes, always was and still is public land.

He said the Labour government even had plans for two similar sites in the south, but those projects did not materialise when the Nationalist Party was elected to government.

“Naturally, it would be foolish for anyone to go to these reserved areas during the hunting season, because they risk getting hit by lead from shots fired by hunters. The idea behind the letter sent to FKNK was to provide a space specifically for hunting and trapping, just like space is provided to sport organisations,” said Dr Mifsud Bonnici.

BirdLife Malta is insisting however that the authorities never publicly produced a copy of Dr Mifsud Bonnici’s letter to FKNK. Besides, BirdLife said the law does not permit any prime minister to treat public land as his own and give it away as a political favour.

“The management of public land by NGOs is only permitted following a legal agreement that imposes a strict regulatory framework for site management,” said BirdLife.

BirdLife also questioned the Malta Environment and Planning Authority’s (Mepa) lack of action to remove the illegal structures, which is encouraging the construction of more hides even within the boundaries of the nearby is-Simar bird sanctuary.

At least 23 hides are located within the sanctuary even though Legal Notice 79 of 2006, prohibits hunting or trapping inside a bird sanctuary.

Mizieb and Ahrax afforestation projects

According to the BirdLife Malta report, in the late 1950s the Israeli government donated approximately 10,000 trees to Malta, then under Prime Minister Dom Mintoff. The donated trees consisted primarily of Aleppo Pine, Olive and Juniper.

Two sites were chosen in the north for these afforestation purposes – Mizieb and l-Ahrax – and afforestation began on the Mizieb ridge.

In the early 1970s more trees were planted in the Mizieb area, and many NGOs (including Men of the Trees, 4T’s and Malta Ornithological Society (today BirdLife Malta)) were also involved in these tree-planting projects.

The site was also used for a scientific bird ringing project, and nature walks by the general public. In 1986 the Maltese government, in the run-up to a general election, handed Mizieb over to the Hunters’ Association (at the time called Ghaqda Kaccaturi u Nassaba) for use as a hunting area.

The Mizieb woodland is now claimed by the FKNK (Federazzjoni Kaccaturi Nassaba Konservazzjonisti) as a private hunting ground, and is used in such a way as to attract birds within range of hunter’s shotguns.

BirdLife Malta said the authorities have failed to provide any legal agreement for the transfer of public land to the FKNK legitimising the hunting federation’s claim to rights over the Mizieb woodland. There are also no management plans approved by the competent authorities for the area.

Despite the intensive hunting and trapping pressure, Mizieb is also used by members of the public for recreational purposes (such as picnics and country walks) and tourists from hotels in Xemxija and the wider area, said BirdLife.

The general area also has a wealth of archaeological structures, including Roman Baths, Bronze Age structures, Roman Apiaries and Granaries, further adding to the touristic potential of the Mizieb area.

BirdLife went on to say in its report that currently, due to the intensive hunting and trapping pressure, coupled with the often aggressive behaviour of some of the hunters towards members of the public and/or tourists entering Mizieb (particularly during peak hunting periods), the full recreational potential of the woodland has not been realised.

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