BirdLife Malta Update – Demand for suspension of hunting!

BirdLife Malta to demand suspension of hunting as a senior FKNK official caught hunting illegally in Foresta 2000 Bird Sanctuary

Edwin Vella, a high-ranking FKNK official, was photographed hunting illegally inside the Foresta 2000 Bird Sanctuary, only hours after Mellieha resident Chris Gauci was convicted of the same offence. BirdLife Malta will be calling on the government to put an immediate end to the current spring hunting season, which it said was completely out of control, with bag limits and quotas not being respected or supervised and the police unable to cope with the number of hunters and scale of abuse.

Steve Micklewright, BirdLife Malta’s Executive Director, said, “The fact that an FKNK official has now been caught hunting illegally in a protected area demands that immediate action be taken to prevent the situation spiraling further out of control. We will demand that suspension of the hunting season is discussed at Tuesday’s Hunting Derogation Board meeting.” 

BirdLife will also call on the FKNK to resign their place on the Hunting Derogation Monitoring Board because their position is no longer tenable in the light of this most recent incident. Mr Micklewright added, “An organization that includes people who flagrantly disregard the law among its officials can clearly not be trusted with the responsibility of ensuring that the conditions of the spring derogation are respected and abuses curtailed,” said Mr Micklewright.

BirdLife Malta Conservation Manager, Nicholas Barbara, said that the incident raised some serious questions about the sincerity and credibility of the FKNK’s statements that it will not tolerate any illegal hunting by its members, and the organisation’s self-purported ability to police its members’ activities during the hunting season.

Hunter-Malta

Edwin Vella (1), a high-ranking FKNK official, hunting illegally inside the Foresta 2000 Bird Sanctuary only hours after Mellieha resident Chris Gauci was convicted of the same offence.

“The FKNK claim to have marshals in the field supervising the hunting season, but we have not seen any. It is also high time the FKNK published records of the number and type of any hunting and trapping offences committed by their members and what action the FKNK has taken in each case,” said Mr Barbara.

As for the incident itself, BirdLife said that it clearly demonstrates the invaluable role of photographic and video evidence gathering by BirdLife staff and Spring Watch camp volunteers in detecting and securing prosecutions for illegal hunting offences. “Without the work done by our local staff and international volunteers, I have no doubt that the majority of illegal hunting offences would go unpunished,” said Mr Barbara. 

Rather than supporting BirdLife Malta’s efforts to end illegal hunting, the FKNK has consistently called into question the authenticity of video and photographic evidence documenting illegal hunting offences in the Maltese countryside.

Commenting on evidence showing Chris Gauci and a second accused man, Carl Borg, hunting inside Foresta 2000 Bird Sanctuary, a moderator on the FKNK’s internet forum questioned whether photos and video of the two men hunting in Foresta 2000 Bird Sanctuary was genuine. “It would be interesting to know whether the two men accused are members of the FKNK, and if so, what action has been taken,” said Mr Barbara.

To find out how to report illegal hunting visit www.birdlifemalta.org.

FKNK refuse to sack hunter who admitted breaking law

Birdlife executive director Steve Micklewright after the meeting of the spring hunting Derogation Monitoring Board outside Casa Leone, Santa Venera, yesterday. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli
Birdlife executive director Steve Micklewright after the meeting of the spring hunting Derogation Monitoring Board outside Casa Leone, Santa Venera, yesterday. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli
 
The hunters’ federation (FKNK) yesterday refused to bow to Birdlife’s demand to step down from the board monitoring Malta’s spring hunting derogation or kick out a member who has admitted wrongdoing.

Edwin Vella, an FKNK district official, admitted in court on Monday to entering the Foresta 2000 nature reserve with a loaded gun.

In yesterday’s derogation monitoring board meeting, Birdlife challenged the federation to revoke Mr Vella’s membership or remove itself from the board, but the hunters refused.

“They were furious at the suggestion,” Birdlife Malta executive director Steve Micklewright said.

“If they won’t act it makes it very difficult for us to be a part of the board. He has broken the law. They are making excuses for a member in a position of responsibility which goes against their promise of zero tolerance to-wards illegalities.”

As he left the meeting, FKNK press officer Joseph Buttigieg said Mr Vella was a district committee member who entered the nature reserve to collect a turtle dove he had shot from outside.

The FKNK would not be stepping down from the board or revoking Mr Vella’s membership, he confirmed. The board includes representatives from Birdlife, the FKNK, the armed forces, the police and the Government. It was set up to monitor the spring hunting season and the enforcement of rules.

However, FKNK issued a press statement in the evening to say that disciplinary action against the three arraigned hunters would be discussed by the Disciplinary Board following the end of the court proceedings.

“FKNK wants to make it clear that nobody has the right to know, ask or worse still expect to dictate how FKNK should discipline its members,” the press statement concluded.

Malta is the only EU country to derogate from the Birds’ Directive to allow turtle dove and quail to be hunted in spring.

The season is open until April 30 unless the national quota of 11,000 turtle dove and 5,000 quail is bagged before. Hunters are allowed to kill a maximum of four birds each throughout the season; if all 9,500 licensed hunters did this they would exceed the national quota by some 22,000 birds.

Standing outside the board’s meeting place, Casa Leone in Sta Venera, Mr Mickelwright reiterated Birdlife’s call to immediately close the spring hunting season due to widespread illegalities.

Last Sunday alone, when hunting was prohibited, Birdlife volunteers counted 710 shots in different locations around Malta, Mr Micklewright claimed. They saw shots being fired at three protected species that day.

“Parliamentary Secretary for Animal Rights Roderick Galdes’s claim that ‘widespread illegalities could not be corroborated’ is wrong. The evidence is clear cut,” the Birdlife executive director said.

He added that Birdlife had suggested at the meeting that the police and armed forces co-ordinate their shift patterns better so that members of the army could monitor night-time hunting of protected species.

In a statement, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter said its volunteers yesterday witnessed a hunter near Imta?leb shooting at a Montagu’s harrier. ALE officers managed to secure the rare bird, which was receiving veter-inary treatment.

“In the past 48 hours our volunteers have registered nine severe contraventions of the law by hunters. The fact that we can only monitor a small part of the islands at any one time means that many more environmental crimes are almost certainly being perpetrated,” CABS said.

St Hubert’s Hunters yesterday praised the €4,658 fine and three-year hunting ban handed down by the court to Christian Gauci on Monday for hunting illegally in the Foresta 2000 reserve.

“We strongly condemn these few dozen totally egoistic law-breakers who persist in ignoring our pleas for sustainable hunting within the law, and do their best to besmirch the law-abiding majority of hunters,” it said.

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