The Malta Independent 19 April 2024, Friday
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TMID Editorial: Illegal hunting, smuggling and trapping

Tuesday, 2 April 2024, 10:42 Last update: about 16 days ago

Illegal hunting is a problem, and has been for quite some time. From the shooting of protected birds during the hunting season, to illegal trapping, there are those who practice their hobby who think they are above the law.

Those who break the law do harm to all those who practice their hobby. The hunting lobby is strong in the country, but as illegalities have continued over the years, so has the impact on its image worsened.

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On 19 March, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) said that reports and information it gathered led the police to 27 trapping sites used for illegal trapping of finches and other protected birds. A total of 263 live birds were confiscated.

Last December, BirdLife Malta said that a Barn Own that formed part of a reintroduction project that is managed by the Federation for Hunting and Conservation was illegally shot, ending up on the grounds of a school. This is also not the first time a bird was shot and ended up in a school, it had also happened in 2015, at that time during the hunting season, and the hunting season was then closed.

These are just a few examples that have been recorded. The existing deterrents do not seem to be enough to dissuade those who would ignore regulations. Those who break the rules are giving all their fellow hunters and trappers a bad name. It is also thanks to volunteers that we get to know about so many illegalities with regards to hunting and trapping. Although they cannot perform enforcement, they do work hand in hand with the police, informing them when an illegality is spotted. It should be pointed out, however, that perhaps the police need more personnel to deal with such illegalities and patrol the countryside. This, in addition to the need for more police personnel in other sections of the Force of course.

But when politicians speak about the need to weaken fines for instance, this only emboldens those who break the regulations to begin with.

There are other voluntary organisations, like the Malta Ranger Unit, who also patrol the countryside and post about, for instance, illegal trapping, waste in the countryside, and other environmental crimes.

Without these organisations, we would very likely not know so much about environmental crime that takes place in the country.

While it is easier to spot illegal hunting and trapping during the off-season, it becomes harder during the hunting seasons, which is why one hopes enforcement assets during the hunting seasons are increased.

Aside from hunting and trapping illegalities there are other issues.

Just last week, two men were arrested by the police in connection with the importation of protected birds, and their stuffing. Some 2,500 stuffed birds were seized by the police along with seven shotguns in separate operations on two residences. The police suspect that this is part of an organised crime ring. If this is the case, how wide is this ring?

 

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