The Malta Independent 22 October 2020, Thursday

Updated (2): Government issues dates for spring hunting season

Tuesday, 6 March 2018, 17:14 Last update: about 4 years ago

The 2018 spring hunting season will be between 1 and 21 April, government has announced.

"Following Ornis Committee recommendations, and upon considering all applicable legal and conservation parameters, the Government announces that the 2018 spring hunting season shall be open for quail only, between Sunday 1st April and Saturday 21st April, both dates inclusive, from two hours before sunrise until noon. Only those who are issued with a Special Spring Hunting Licence for 2018 shall be permitted to hunt for quail during this season," a statement read.

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"In order to obtain this special licence, hunters must have, at the time of application: Valid general licence to hunt birds on land (licence card issued by WBRU); Paid-up membership in a recognised hunting organisation for 2018-green booklet stamped by your hunting organisation; Valid third party liability insurance cover for 2018; Valid permit to carry a firearm for hunting of birds on land issued by the Police.

The date debate has been a subject of recent contrversy. BirdLife previously said that it was 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.

Scientific evidence and the advice from the Environment Resources Authority, Birdlife CEO Mark Sultana previosuly 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 had recommended the season to be open from 5 April to 25 April," he had said.

Government's chosen dates lie in between, closer to the Ornis Committee recommendations.

The European Union had issued a moratorium on the hunting of the species during spring after recording a noticeable drop in turtle dove figures.

New procedure for Special Spring Hunting Licence applications

As from this year, the procedure to apply for a Spring hunting licence has changed. Hunters will no longer need to apply for this Special Licence at MaltaPost, as in previous years, but can apply telephonically by dialling the number 77070009, which is listed in their green hunting booklets.

Eligible hunters are to specifically call this number from the mobile number associated with their registration with the Wild Birds Regulation Unit for the general hunting licence. Hunters whose mobile number has changed must inform the Wild Birds Regulation Unit before applying for a special licence by not later than noon on Friday 16th March. Calls made from a landline or from any other number that is not registered on your name will not be accepted. To apply for a special licence, hunters must dial 77070009 at any time between 6am on Monday 12th March and noon on Wednesday 21st March, both dates inclusive. Calls made before or after this period will not be accepted and the application system will be closed.

Once the system accepts an application, the hunter will receive an SMS acknowledgement with a personalised special licence code. Hunters are kindly requested to keep this confirmation text message on their mobile phone for the entire duration of the spring hunting season. Hunters will also receive their special licence by post before the opening of the season and are requested to read all licence conditions carefully and abide by these conditions accordingly.

This non-transferrable special license only permits the hunting of quail, and no other species.  The national hunting bag limit for this season has been established at 5,000 quails. Hunters are not to exceed the daily bag limit of 5 quails and a seasonal bag limit of 10 quails per hunter. They will be required to report their catch by calling the telephone number specified in the special license and follow instructions given through voice prompts.

Furthermore, the Government reminds all hunters that the moratorium prohibiting hunting of the turtle dove in spring, as published via Government Notice No. 538 of 2016, is still in place. Any shooting of turtle doves or any species other than quail is strictly prohibited and anyone caught breaking the law will be subject to criminal procedures and high penalties. The limited spring hunting season will be subject to stringent enforcement, including spot-checks. Any non-compliance with applicable conditions and regulations will not be tolerated.

In case of any queries, kindly contact the Wild Birds Regulation Unit either via telephone no. 22926402/03; email: [email protected] or at the WBRU's office at 122, Quarry Street, Santa Venera.

Government ignores suggestion of its own agency - BirdLife

BirdLife Malta took note of the decision by government to extend the spring hunting season to coincide with the peak migration of the Turtle Dove.

"Though the original proposal by the Ornis Committee was until the 25th of April, the decision to open the hunting season until the 21st still is a gamble not worth taking. The extension until the 21st of April will leave the Turtle Dove as a protected species at enormous risk. The Government has ignored the suggestion of its own agency - the Environment & Resources Authority (ERA) - which suggested the 15th of March to the 4th of April for the limited shooting of Quail. The Government is aware that without proper enforcement across Malta and Gozo, it is opening itself to infringements procedures from the EU Commission."

"Hunters in Malta and Gozo have already been seen clearing their hunting hides which cannot be used for Quail hunting but are specifically used for Turtle Dove hunting. Signs with no legal basis asking people not to trespass can also be seen all over the countryside. Furthermore, to add insult to injury, trapping sites have been revisited by trappers for the spring migration of finches even though this has been illegal for years. The Government has an obligation to the wider public when it comes to environmental protection in the country - while it states it will not tolerate any illegalities, when push comes to shove it knows that enforcement across Malta and Gozo is limited and difficult."

BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana said that the hunting extension would be closely monitored. "We have tried our very best in being constructive and avoid confrontation but the Government's gamble goes to show Dr. Muscat and his parliamentary secretary Clint Camilleri - a hunter himself - do not have the courage to do what is needed and stand their ground."  

BirdLife Malta will be closely monitoring the season and illegalities. "It cannot be that our dwindling countryside continues to be the sole domain of hunters and trappers. The government must enforce the law and ensure that hunters do not kill protected species," it said.

FKNK statement

The FKNK, in a surprising statement, said that government has "ignored the committee set up by law, falling for BirdLife's blackmail."

The FKNK said that against the Ornis committee vote, for the hunting season to be between the 5 and 25 April, the season will open between 1 and 21 April.

The FKNK deplored the "mediocre way" these dates were chosen, "clearly showing that a threat of a referendum won over science and right."


 

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