The Malta Independent 20 May 2024, Monday
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Government publishes documentation on finch trapping

Malta Independent Friday, 6 June 2014, 19:42 Last update: about 11 years ago

The Parliamentary Secretariat for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights today published documentation, presented by the Wild Birds Regulation Unit to the Malta Ornis Committee in early April. This documentation does not constitute an official Government policy position on finch trapping dossier, but merely a summary of the legal and technical assessment performed upon request of the Ornis Committee by the Wild Birds Regulation Unit which acts a Secretariat to the Committee and supports the Committee’s work.

Unlike what has been reported on some local media, at no point does this documentation, which contains a summary of the detailed legal and technical assessment performed by the Unit upon Committee’s request, refer to any “loopholes”, “lacunae” or attempts “to wiggle out” of any of Malta’s legal obligations under EU law.

At this stage the Parliamentary Secretariat is analysing the Committee’s recommendations, amongst other advice, and will decide and announce its decision in due course. Before this decision is announced, it is premature to speculate on the principle, or the exact parameters of potential finch live-capturing season and the controls that may be put into place to ensure compliance with the Birds Directive.

The assessment prepared for the Ornis Committee indicates that the EU Birds Directive protects all birds naturally occurring within EU territory. However, owing to their population status, some species of birds, listed in Annex II of the Directive may be legally hunted. The Directive furthermore prohibits the use of hunting methods which are non-selective, or can cause “the local disappearance of the species”. Seven species of finches traditionally trapped in Malta prior to 2009 were not part of the list of “huntable species”, although the Maltese Government in 2002 proposed to the European Commission that these species should be included in Annex II. This proposal was not accepted, however Malta was granted a temporary transition period in the Act of Accession whereby trapping of finches could continue until the end of 2008, subject to fulfilment of a number of intermediary targets including the setting up of a captive breeding programme.

The Act of Accession furthermore stipulated that trapping of finches could be permitted in the numbers that would be strictly necessary to address the problem of consanguinity within a captive breeding programme. Malta fulfilled all intermediary targets set out in the Act of Accession, and the performance of the captive breeding programme was thoroughly assessed. One of the main outcomes of this assessment was that in Malta’s case, wild caught birds are not necessary for the sustainability of a captive breeding programme, and hence the captive breeding programme could not be deemed to be a satisfactory solution to the problem Malta sought to address.

When the transitional period granted under the Act of Accession came to an end in December 2008, trapping of finches was banned. However the Act of Accession did not preclude Malta from exercising its right, as do all other EU Member States, to apply derogations (exemptions) from certain provisions of the Birds Directive in very specific circumstances. These circumstances are regulated by Article 9(1)(c) of the Birds Directive, which allows Member States to derogate, where there is no other satisfactory solution, to allow the capture, keeping or other judicious use of certain birds in small numbers and under strictly supervised conditions. Several EU Member States, including Austria, Spain, France and Italy apply similar derogations involving finches on an annual basis.

On Tuesday 3rd June, the Malta Ornis Committee recommended in principle the application of derogation under Article 9(1)(c) of the EC Birds Directive to permit, under strictly supervised conditions and in small numbers, the limited live-capture of seven species of finches in autumn 2014. The recommendation was made after the Committee considered, during 3 consecutive sessions, the detailed technical, legal and scientific submissions made by MEPA, the Wild Birds Regulation Unit, BirdLife (Malta) and the FKNK. As part of the discussion, the Committee deliberated on the legal parameters concerning this derogation, including extent of applicability of Malta’s Act of Accession, provisions of the EC Birds Directive and relevant jurisprudence. An analysis of alternatives, consideration of the requirements pertaining to “judicious use”, “small numbers”, as well as “strictly supervised conditions” and enforcement was also carried out. Furthermore, the Committee discussed the conservation status of the seven finch species, as well as controls to ensure protection of habitats. The Committee noted that the proposed derogation would be subject to stringent controls and limitations, and would not envisage a general continuation of trapping as it was practiced prior to 2009. The recommendation was adopted following 5 votes in favour, 1 against and 1 abstention.

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