The Malta Independent 22 January 2021, Friday

One of the worst spring hunting seasons – for birds, says BirdLife

Saturday, 21 April 2018, 18:09 Last update: about 4 years ago

With the spring hunting season having drawn to an end at 12 noon yesterday, the number of illegally shot birds collected from the public, police and BirdLife Malta indicate that this has been one of the worst spring hunting seasons in past years and definitely worse than last year’s.

With 17 protected birds confirmed shot by the veterinary surgeon being the tip of the iceberg, this season – which was supposedly open only for quail – “should put to shame all those who defended it in the first place,” BirdLife said yesterday.

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“To make things worse, on the second year of the hunting moratorium on turtle doves, the change in dates chosen by the government – against all scientific data and against the Environment & Resources Authority’s advice – was indeed a smokescreen for hunters to target this vulnerable species.”

“With reports from the field still fresh, and eight turtle doves found shot, it is clear that this year there were thousands of this species shot over our islands, in particular during the past few days when shooting at this protected bird spiralled out of control.

“If the Government believed it could trust the hunters and they would not shoot anything but quail during this season, it should feel cheated by them today. Changing the dates of the season to coincide with the peak season of the turtle dove was a big mistake that should embarrass the government and those who advised it to do so,” said BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana.

“We can only hope that the Government understands that it cannot continue accepting wrong advice on the issue of spring hunting, while we promise to push for the European Commission to investigate whether this decision to allow hunting during the turtle doves’ peak migration goes against the spirit of the European Birds Directive and any form of derogation from it.”

This year’s spring hunting season has taken its toll on protected birds migrating over the Maltese Islands like no other spring season in the past few years, with the total of 17 illegally shot protected birds recovered since the start of the season – including several birds of prey, all found by members of the public. Twelve of the 17 were recovered by BirdLife Malta, while the remaining five were passed on to the police. Nearly half of the shot birds recovered this season (eight out of the 17) are turtle doves, which shows that the red-listed vulnerable turtle dove was targeted by hunters this season, with thousands shot in the past few days.

“On Thursday, Friday and today, our teams in the countryside observed hundreds of turtle doves being shot down in several parts of the country and our offices were inundated with calls from the public all over Malta and Gozo reporting what many described as a “massacre” of this protected bird,” said BirdLife Malta.

“During last year’s spring hunting season we recovered a total of 15 illegally shot protected birds, which means that this year we had two more casualties. This goes to show that, despite promises of improved enforcement, more protected birds were shot in 2018 compared to last year, with half of them being vulnerable turtle doves on which there was supposedly a moratorium in place.”

In an appeal to members of the public, Birdlife said: “We call on the public to continue monitoring any illegalities they may witness, as illegal hunting usually continues even after the end of the season. Any shots heard in the countryside from now on mean that an illegality is taking place and should be reported. For more details and guidance on how to report illegal hunting, please visit the hunting section on our website.”

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