Maltese Government condemns shooting of eagles in Buskett, doubles penalties

The Maltese Government yesterday condemned the shooting down of several rare Booted Eagles over Buskett, describing what had taken place as ‘barbaric’.

 

A booted eagle (File photo)

A booted eagle 

Parliamentary Secretary Roderick Galdes said that the criminal act was being investigated and perpetrators would face the full brunt of the law. He appealed to all hunting organisations, individual hunters and members of the public to assist the authorities in their investigations.

The Government also said that on Friday it will be amending the Conservation of Wild Birds Regulations to introduce harsher penalties for all forms of serious hunting-related offences.

Mr Galdes said the amendment constitutes “the most comprehensive revision of hunting legislation in Malta since the transposition of the EC Birds Directive into Maltese law in 2006”.

“The traditional socio-cultural practice of hunting and live-capturing of wild birds in Malta must respect the principle of sustainability if it is to persist. This is why zero-tolerance policy in relation to wildlife crime is the only way forward. Barbaric criminal acts, such as the one that occurred today have no place in the modern society. This is why a more effective legal deterrent against illegalities is not an end in itself, but a means to guarantee not only the protection of wildlife, but also sustainability of legitimate hunting activities”, the Parliamentary Secretary said.

The maximum fines have also been increased, with €15,000 being the maximum applicable fine for repeat offenders – Government

Minimum fines for serious hunting offences such as for shooting protected birds or poaching in a bird sanctuary are being doubled, both for first and subsequent convictions, whilst the maximum fines have also been increased, with €15,000 being the maximum applicable fine for repeat offenders.

The new regime also envisages imprisonment for a period of between six months and up to two years, suspension of hunting licence for a period of between two and five years (with the possibility for permanent revocation), as well as confiscation, and the possibility of mandatory community service.

RULES ON MINOR INFRINGEMENTS

In parallel with the increase in penalties for serious hunting offences, a new more effective system for dealing with minor infringements is also being introduced, the government said.

Minor offences, such as late return of Carnet de Chasse, non-declaration of birds legally hunted or taken, trespassing on clearly marked private property, the use of a bird caller, the carrying of an uncovered shotgun within 200 metres but not closer than 150 metres from an inhabited area, the use of a small scale portable cage-trap and possession of a firearm with a magazine capable of holding more than 2 shots, shall be subject to automatic administrative fines and will no longer require court action.

“The magnitude of these fines is comparable in scale to the fines currently meted out for these offences by the courts, however the new system has the advantage of dealing with such infringements more swiftly and effectively without the need to resort to costly and lengthy court proceedings,” the government said.

Administrative fines would only apply where such minor offences are not committed in the presence of any aggravating factors or in conjunction with any other offence under these regulations, in which case offenders will be charged in court and, upon conviction, will be liable to the increased penalties stipulated under new regulations.

Offenders served with an administrative fine may appeal before the Administrative Review Tribunal. The new amendments also presume that unless any outstanding fines have been paid, licences will not be renewed.

The Government has included ten further bird species within a new schedule, which, it said, will effectively ensure that any crimes committed in relation to these birds will be liable to the same increased levels of penalty that would apply to crimes committed against birds already enjoying the highest level of legal protection.

The new regulations also contain other revisions, which, amongst other, clarify a number of technical discrepancies arising out of the present regulations, particularly those concerning licensing and Carnet de Chasse.

The regulations also provide legal basis for the functioning of the newly-established Wild Birds Regulation Unit, and generally raise the standard of hunting governance by stipulating, for example, the minimum standards that a hunting organisation must fulfil in order to be recognised for the purpose of these regulations.

WILDLIFE CRIME INVESTIGATION UNIT PLANNED

Sergei Golovkin, who heads the Wild Birds Regulation Unit, which spearheaded these amendments said that the present legal reform complements other ongoing initiatives, such as increase in enforcement presence and better coordination in the field during hunting season, the planned establishment of a Wildlife Crime Investigation Unit and the development of a national strategy for the eradication of illegal killing, trade and trapping of wild birds.

“The recently published analysis of enforcement statistics pertaining to autumn hunting season indicates that there is a clear positive trend with regards to the reduction in the number of incidents involving serious hunting crimes, as well as increase in the disclosure of minor offences.

Today’s incident underscores the fact that notwithstanding the overall positive trend, much more still remains to be done to combat illegalities – Wild Birds Regulation Unit

“Unfortunately, today’s incident underscores the fact that notwithstanding the overall positive trend, much more still remains to be done to combat illegalities, particularly the illegal targeting of protected species.

“The present legal amendments therefore aim at providing a more credible deterrent against serious crime, whilst at the same time ensuring a more effective system for dealing with minor offences”, he said.

The amendments have been published following rapid but intensive consultations with the relevant stakeholders, including the police, representatives of the hunting community, Birdlife Malta and the Malta Ornis Committee.

Increase in penalties for serious hunting offences

Offences Current min penalty € Current max penalty € New min penalty € New max penalty € % increase min % increase max
1st conviction under Regulation 27 (2): fine 239.94 4,658.75 500 5,000 108 7
1st conviction under Regulation 27 (2): suspension of license 1 year 2 years 2 years 5 years 100 150
Subsequent conviction under Regulation 27 (2): fine 465.87 9,317.49 1,000 10,000 115 7
Subsequent conviction under Regulation 27 (2): imprisonment 2 months 2 years 6 months 2 years 200 0
1st offence under Regulation 27 (3): fine 239.94 2,329.37 500 2,500 108 7
Subsequent conviction under Regulation 27 (3): fine 465.87 4,658.75 1000 5,000 115 7
Subsequent conviction under Regulation 27 (3): suspension of license 1 year 3 years 2 years 5 years 100 67
Offences committed without license (2nd proviso to Regulation 27(3)): fine 6,988.12 13,976.24 7,000 15,000 0.2 7

 

EAGLES SHOT

BirdLife Malta reported how a flock of 37 eagles was seen flying over Buskett, quickly attracting a large number of hunters.

BirdLife members saw six of the large birds shot down. Another three were reported shot down by members of the public.

The police were called in.

HUNTERS’ CONDEMNATION

In a statement, Kaccaturi San Ubertu (KSU), a hunters’ association, said it unreservedly condemned the shooting of the eagles as reported by some of its members.

“The maximum penalties contemplated for such atrocities include hefty fines and imprisonment. Such despicable vandal acts have no place in civilized society and are to be treated severely by the judiciary,” the association said.

“On behalf of the legal interests of our members and thousands of other law abiding hunters, KSU call on Government to pronounce itself against such atrocities which ultimately undermine its immense effort to safeguard legal hunting in Malta.”

The association pledged to help the police by reporting any witnessed illegal incident. It augured that perpetrators of such criminal acts be brought to justice.

Whilst being an isolated incident, it is atrocious in its consequence,both on wildlife and on the effect it will have on legal hunting.
– FKNK

Separately, the hunters’ federation (FKNK) in a statement said today’s incident came at a time when Government was intent on revising local legislation including the revision of fines and penalties

This incident came at a time when the FKNK said it had started to see  results in the field and reap some of the benefits that come with credibility.

“This incident comes at a time when the collaboration of the FKNK with the local authorities was reaching the stage whereby the legal hunter was starting to regain the respect he/she deserves.

“This incident comes at a time when dealings with the European Commission are at a crucial stage that could see an overall improvement for the legal hunter and trapper in an ensemble of legal practice and self-control,” the FKNK said.

“This incident could jeopardise all these efforts and throw away years of work and months of incessant fine-tuning to the local system to bring it in line with and even exceed the expectations of Commission whilst allowing an acceptable hunting and trapping scenario in the Maltese islands.”

“Whilst being an isolated incident, it is atrocious in its consequence,both on wildlife and on the effect it will have on legal hunting. Very little can be said about this incident, except that, not everyone who carries a gun is a hunter, in the same way as not everyone who carries a knife is a killer,” the federation said.

“The task at hand remains to identify and expel these outcasts and diehards who do not deserve to own a hunting licence and who have no place in a civilised hunting community. The FKNK’s commitment with the Police Commissioner not only remains, but will be strengthened by such acts.”

It said its members are intent on seeking information that can lead to the arraignment of these ‘criminals’.

It hoped that this incident would not impair the progress that had been achieved.

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