The Malta Independent 22 October 2020, Thursday

Birdlife to pursue second referendum due to unbalanced decisions in hunters' favour

Julian Bonnici Wednesday, 28 February 2018, 12:50 Last update: about 4 years ago

BirdLife is considering pursuing a second referendum to ban spring hunting after the Ornis Committee recommended that this year it takes place during the peak migratory season of the now protected turtle dove, despite scientific evidence recommending the contrary.

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Scientific evidence and the advice from the Environment Resources Authority, Birdlife CEO Mark Sultana explained, categorically suggested that the spring hunting season takes place between 15 March to 4 April, specifically to avoid the turtle dove, which is now protected in spring. The Ornis Committee has recommended the season to be open from 5 April to 25 April. These dates are subject to approval from the Prime Minister.

The European Union had issued a moratorium on the hunting of the species during spring after recording a noticeable drop in turtle dove figures. In fact, last year's spring hunting season was moved to 25 March-14 April, in order to avoid overlapping with the migration period, while hunters were still able to hunt quail, which is allowed under law.

"This effectively means that this year's spring hunting season is one which has been designed to target the protected turtle dove," a BirdLife statement read.

Sultana said that the government is completely disregarding environmentalists and respective NGOs while catering to the whims of the hunting lobby.

The NGO will be also approaching the European Commission to intervene

Saviour Balzan, who is the Secretary General of the NGO, went a step further saying that this was a sign of weakness from the government, who he explained was effectively ignoring the needs of half the population who voted against spring hunting. This was happening despite Prime Minister Joseph Muscat saying after the first referendum that he would make environmental protection a priority.

"We need to change our strategy. We have tried to use dialogue, but we know have ERA advice and scientific evidence from the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) are being completely ignored. This is purely a political decision, and it's not even as though we are close to an election and they need to win votes from the lobby," Balzan said.

BirdLife President Darrell Grima, who revealed that that the NGO will be pursuing another referendum, explained that they have "been pushed into a corner, as there is no balance between both sides of the debate."

"We are obliged to pursue a referendum on what has been happening. We believe we will win, 100%, with the support we have," he said.

"No one has a leader to speak about the destruction of the environment, so we must occupy that space," Balzan added.

The first referendum on spring hunting was held in Malta on 11 April 2015, with 50.4% of voters (turnout was 74.8%) voting for the existing law to remain in place.


 

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