The Malta Independent 26 September 2020, Saturday

Updated: Diabolical - Birdlife Malta slams decision to place hunting regulator under Gozo Ministry

Monday, 27 January 2020, 14:56 Last update: about 9 months ago

Birdlife Malta has described as "diabolical" a decision by Prime Minister Robert Abela to make Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri responsible for the hunting regulator - the Wild Birds Regulation Unit.

Earlier on Monday, it was announced that Camilleri will keep the WBRU under his wing, despite the fact that he no longer holds the Animal Rights Porfolio. Camilleri was appointed Minister for Agriculture and Animal Rights by Abela, but five days later he was made Gozo Minister, following the resignation of Justyne Caruana.

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The Gozitan politician, an avid hunter, has often clashed with Birdlife Malta, the country's leading bird conservation group.

Sources said Prime Minister Robert Abela did not want to upset the hunting community by removing the unit from under Camilleri's responsibility.

Reacting, Birdlife Malta CEO Mark Sultana said that, while Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia was creating a transparency policy to log meetings with lobbyists, PM Robert Abela was giving the hunting and trapping remit to Camilleri, who is also a hunter and trapper. He described the move as "diabolical."

In comments to The Malta Independent, Sultana said appealed to the Prime Minister to reconsider his decision.

"The government comes up with a number of ways to protect the environment, but it is crystal clear that it does not want to touch hunting in any way," he said.

Just last week, Sultana had said that the WBRU should fall under the Environment Ministry for the simple reason that wild birds and other wildlife are not treated like domestic animals but have their own regulations and means of protection.

"We have been asking the Prime Minister and the Environment Minister to understand and confirm that the Wild Birds Regulation Unit falls under the Environment Ministry, but we were never given a reply," Sultana told this newsroom on Monday.

"We are extremely surprised, and it is very clear that this is an electoral decision to appease the trappers and hunters, in particular those in Gozo."

Birdlife Malta is still waiting for meetings with the PM and the Environment Minister, he continued. "We are asking the Prime Minister to reverse this decision."

"On the one hand we have an Environment Minister who is being transparent on his meetings with lobbyists, and on the other we have a Gozo Minister who is part of the hunting lobby but has been made responsible for hunting. The situation cannot be more ridiculous," he told this newsroom.

In a statement, Birdlife Malta said the decision is "diabolical" and "sends out the wrong message."

The only consideration here is purely electoral, the group said.

"As Malta's largest environmental NGO, BirdLife Malta would have hoped that Prime Minister Robert Abela responds to the environmental concerns and shifts responsibility of hunting and trapping to a ministry which embraces the environment, and not the hunting and trapping lobby"

BirdLife Malta reminded the PM that Malta faces Infringement Proceedings on an EU level on the decision to open trapping for songbirds and for its insistence to allow trapping for other species.

"Furthermore, Birdlife Malta hopes that the Prime Minister is fully aware of the subjective decision-making process in the WBRU and the overwhelming presence of hunters and trappers in the unit. BirdLife Malta urges the Prime Minister to reconsider this decision and place the WBRU within a ministry that reflects the aspirations of a nation that considers environment as a priority."

Gozo Minister does not explain why WBRU falls under his ministry

Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri was confronted about the WBRU situation in Parliament, and while confirming that hunting regulations fall under his ministry, did not explain why.

Camilleri was asked by PN MP Chris Said as to why the hunting regulations fell under him and not under the environment ministry. Camilleri said that Prime Minister Robert Abela has full trust in Camilleri.

He spoke about the regulations regarding hunters, and said that the government is in favour of sustainable hunting. He said that hunters know that the government is with them.

 

PN statement

In a statement, the PN condemned the PM’s “clandestine” behaviour, saying that the hunting regulator had been passed onto Camilleri’s portfolio in a hushed up way.

PN environment spokesman Jason Azzopardi said the move was wrong and did not make any sense. The WBRU, he said, was placed under the responsibility of a minister who has a vested interest to see that enforcement does not take place.  

 

'Continuity' - FKNK

In a statement, the hunting federation (FKNK) said it welcomed the PM’s decision to entrust the hunting socio-cultural traditions and sustainable trapping to Clint Camilleri.

Camilleri, who has been responsible for hunting for the past few years, has vast experience in the field, both in practice and also on a local and EU administrative level, it said.

This situation is called “continuity,” FKNK said.

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