33 MEPs request meeting with European Commissioner about Maltese Spring Hunting

Maltese police officers removing illegal mist nets used to trap protected song birds

Thirty-three MEPs from 10 EU countries have added their names to a letter requesting an urgent meeting with European Commissioner for the Environment, Janez Potonik, to discuss the spring hunting of birds in Malta.

Birdlife Malta said Malta is currently the only European Union country to have a recreational spring hunting season thanks to a derogation (exception) of the Birds Directive, which normally protects migratory birds from being hunted during this crucial stage of their life cycle.

“Such derogations have been applied in their current form on Malta since 2010 and the meeting is being requested because MEPs consider that the European Commission is not doing enough to stop Malta from breaking EU rules, by systematically failing to apply the derogation correctly,” the society said.

Steve Micklewright, Executive Director of BirdLife Malta said the birds that are targeted by Maltese hunters in spring, turtle dove and quail, are in serious decline where they breed in mainland Europe.

The MEPs state in the letter that, “…the Maltese government has sought to justify the derogation through inaccurate reports and unreliable and even fictional data.”

The letter argues that successive Maltese governments have not been prepared to take the appropriate action at the national level to control spring hunting and it is time for “urgent and direct intervention by the European Commission to ensure that the abuses of the Birds Directive that take place in Malta are dealt with.”

The Malta government is expected to announce the dates of the 2014 spring hunting season in the next few days and it is likely that they will again allow about 10,000 hunters to shoot turtle dove and quail for three weeks, Birdlife said.

“After the removal of control measures and licence restrictions, the hunting season in 2013 was so out of control that the government called in the army to assist the police,” it added.

Mr Micklewright added, “The MEPs that have signed the letter are united in their view that Malta can no longer allow the hunting of birds that are in serious decline and whose future is in jeopardy because of issues such as hunting in spring.”

As well as killing turtle doves and quail, Maltese hunters also take this golden opportunity each spring to illegally shoot some of Europe’s rarest and endangered birds of prey as they migrate north across Malta. Sadly few if any hunters are brought to court to face the justice they deserve. The killing will continue unabated  once again this spring as it has always has. Why the European Commissioner for the Environment has not put a stop to this fiasco is beyond belief.

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