The Malta Independent 14 April 2021, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Spring hunting - Government pandering to the hunting lobby... again

Wednesday, 7 April 2021, 09:25 Last update: about 7 days ago

The government has decided to accept the Ornis Committee’s recommendation to open the spring hunting season for quail.

Despite all the problems the country is currently facing, despite the fact that Malta has limited countryside where families can go, despite the pandemic, despite the rampant illegally shot birds, it has decided to once again open it.

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The season will run from 10 to 30 April. It will run from two hours before sunrise until noon, including on weekends and public holidays.

This means that large parts of Ahrax and Mizieb will be restricted for the public during those hours. Indeed the FKNK had said: "For safety reasons, during the brief open hunting seasons, like the 21 half-day forthcoming spring hunting season, the public's access is restricted, only in those areas where hunting takes place, never in the several kilometers of pathways within the Reserves, and the picnic and camping areas also situated within the Reserves.” Those areas are then meant open after the season closes, in the afternoons during the season.

Let's be realistic, how many would feel safe going for a walk on the pathways in those areas in the mornings, hearing gun shots from all directions? Not many.

This move effectively removes the options for Ahrax and Mizieb for families to go and enjoy in the mornings during the 20-day hunting season, including on weekends. This, during a pandemic when people are heading out to the countryside more and more. Couldn't an exception have been made by the government just for once? Must it pander to the hunting lobby in such an obvious fashion? Well an election is round the corner after all.

Hunters argue that their parks are open to the public more than others, as they are not fenced off. This is true, but what they fail to acknowledge is that BirLife's reserves are monitored so closely to take care of and protect the wildlife there, and are not closed off just so that a section of the population can enjoy their hobby, which incidentally, aims to kill wildlife.

Regardless of the arguments in favour or against spring hunting, one must acknowledge that gunshots in the countryside, not just in the aforementioned parks, might also put off families from taking their young ones for walks in such areas in the mornings. Again, at a time where people don't only value, but need the countryside just as a place where they can feel safe being outdoors, away from dangers of spreading the pandemic, an exception should have been made and this season should not open. Even when restrictions are eased, families might not want to risk going into public urban areas for fear of the virus and, regardless, more people have been taking to the countryside during the pandemic.

The next point is over illegally shot birds. We se so many stories of protected birds being shot down in this country, it is apparent that some hunters just don't care. It has also become apparent that the licences of a number of those to hunt protected birds have not been revoked, given that we keep on hearing stories about such incidents. Perhaps it is time for far stricter enforcement and control? If a hunter shoots down a protected bird, revoke that hunter's licence to own a gun permanently. One hopes that the police will have the resources to monitor illegalities.

Lastly, there is the whole question of the derogation and whether Malta should keep it. Does spring hunting benefit the environment? That is a key question the government should ask, given that it claims to be so environmentally conscious.

 

 

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