The Malta Independent 24 February 2024, Saturday
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MEP Alex Agius Saliba is ‘ridiculing himself at EU level’ - BirdLife CEO

Semira Abbas Shalan Saturday, 1 April 2023, 07:44 Last update: about 12 months ago

BirdLife CEO Mark Sultana said that Labour MEP Alex Agius Saliba is ridiculing himself at EU level over his controversial views on spring hunting and the protection of birds.

Agius Saliba had told The Malta Independent that spring hunting and trapping go hand in hand with the protection of birds and their habitats, if done in a sustainable manner.


Agius Saliba, a long-time fan of the hobby, appealed for hunters not to be excluded, and added that hunters and trappers play a very important role in conservation, which, he said, has also been accepted by the EU Commission.

Asked about the MEP’s comment, Sultana challenged Agius Saliba to prove exactly how the killing of a bird a few weeks, if not days, before it breeds, can in any way form part of a conservation effort.

He said that if that’s the case, then “why is the European Union giving a directive to also stop the hunting of the turtle-dove in autumn, let alone in spring?”

“I ask Agius Saliba, who is very close to the European Union as an MEP, to ask them,” he said.

Sultana said that it is very easy to say certain words, especially locally.

“I think he’s ridiculing himself at EU level,” Sultana said.

Malta is facing several infringement proceedings initiated by the European Commission for allowing trapping on the pretext of scientific research, and for hunting derogations in breach of the Birds Directive.

Spring hunting is not allowed under EU law, but a 2009 ruling at the European Court of Justice allowed a limited spring hunting season to run. Since the unsuccessful referendum to ban spring hunting in 2015, the turtle dove was declared a vulnerable species, and that pushed the European Commission to send a letter of formal notice to the government over its decision to open a spring hunting season in 2022.

There had been a moratorium on the hunting of turtle doves in spring since 2017, but this was lifted in 2022.

Earlier this week BirdLife called for the ban of the opening of the spring hunting season, saying that Malta is also facing infringement proceedings on the non-existent enforcement against illegal hunting, particularly in Gozo, the ‘Mecca for hunters.’

BirdLife was reacting to the decision made by The Malta ORNIS Committee, who voted in favour of the proposal put forward by the Federation for Hunting and Conservation - Malta (FKNK) in order to recommend that the Minister apply derogation from the EU Directive known as the “Birds” to permit turtle dove and quail hunting this spring, on the same parameters as the 2022 spring hunting season.


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