The Malta Independent 19 June 2021, Saturday

Updated: European Commission calls on Malta to stop finch trapping

Wednesday, 9 June 2021, 13:17 Last update: about 9 days ago

Updated with PN and BirdLife Malta reactions

The European Commission has called on Malta to discontinue its practice of finch trapping, even for research purposes, or it could face court proceedings.

The Commission called on Malta to correctly apply the Birds Directive.

The Birds Directive requires a general system of protection for wild birds and allows derogations on hunting and trapping only subject to strict conditions. “These are key requirements to protect biodiversity across the EU. The European Green Deal and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 both indicate that it is crucial for the EU to halt its biodiversity loss by preserving our natural sites and restoring damaged ecosystems to good ecological status.”

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The Commission highlighted that Malta has recently authorised finch trapping for research purposes, having previously authorised finch trapping for recreational purposes for several years, an action which was found to be non-compliant with the Birds Directive by the Court of Justice.

“In particular, the Commission considers that the new derogation scheme adopted in October 2020 authorising the trapping of finches for research purposes circumvents the judgment of the Court of Justice, by permitting trapping of finches in similar conditions as before this ruling, even if under a different regime.”

Following the unsatisfactory reply from the Maltese authorities to the letter of formal notice, the Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion to Malta.

“Malta now has one month to remedy the situation, otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice. A shortened deadline aims to prevent serious and irreversible damage to the environment, in case the Republic of Malta intends to open yet another trapping season.”

Government reaction

The government said received a reasoned opinion from the European Commission on a derogation which was applied last autumn on research for the seven species of songbirds.

The government will be analysing this opinion and will subsequently provide its technical and legal response.

The government remains committed, as it has done year after year, to protect the rights of hunters and trappers with full respect for the law.

PN: “We need more wisdom and technical expertise"

In reaction, the Nationalist Party said that “we need more wisdom and technical expertise in the implementation of what the EU directive makes possible.”

It said that it is disappointed that the trapping hobby will once again end up before the European Court because of the lack of wisdom by a government that needs to implement these laws.

The PN said that this hobby needs to be practiced without the need for continuous confrontation and express solidarity with trappers who want to practice their hobby in a sustainable way. This, while we will work to see that all possibilities under the directive are explored as happens in other countries.”

The PN believes that hobbies can be practiced in the context of clear laws with good implementation as from continuous confrontation, only those who breach the laws benefit, while hobbyists and people who love the environment suffer.

The PN said it agrees in principle with the concept of trapping for scientific purposes and with a sustainable hobby according to regulations.

The PN appealed to the government to, with the help of technical experts, explore the possibilities of sustainable trapping in conformity with the EU Directive, by ensuring that there is serious and correct implementation.

BirdLife: "Stop finch trapping once and for all"

BirdLife Malta meanwhile welcomed the news, saying that the European Commission had once again stepped in to protect birds in Malta.

“This has happened as a result of the farcical finch trapping derogation applied by the Gozo Ministry under the pretence of a scientific study”, the NGO said.

They said that the Commission’s Directorate-General for Environment has discarded Malta’s justification to allow a finch trapping season last year under the “false guise” of research.

They noted that an ORNIS Committee meeting planned for today to discuss the next finch trapping season was cancelled yesterday.

BirdLife Malta said that it had once again been proven to be on the right side of bird protection. This communication is also a stern warning to the Maltese Government that the European Union will not tolerate anymore the abuse of the European Birds Directive, the NGO added.

 

In a reaction, BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana stated: “The Government has a decision to take. The right decision would be to stop the finch trapping practice once and for all. If this doesn’t happen, Prime Minister Robert Abela will be leading Malta back to the European court to defend the indefensible and apart from further discrediting our international reputation on environmental matters, it will be a case of wasting taxpayers’ money for a handful of votes at a time when the Government should be investing in transforming Malta into a green economy. We urge the Prime Minister to be courageous enough to see the writing on the wall, and act accordingly”.

 

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