BirdLife Malta expects hunting season to be closed if there are illegalities

Birdlife Malta expects Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to keep his word and close the spring hunting season in the event of any illegalities being reported, warned BirdLife Malta spokesman Mark Sultana.  Speaking at a press conference today, Sultana said that the result of the referendum will not affect the values or operation of Birdlife.

He focused on the positive aspect of the result. “This result was not achieved by our efforts of the past six weeks. It took years of work by BirdLife and the fact that so many people weren’t afraid to go against the current and vote ‘no’ is encouraging.”

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Mattese police officer gives chase after hunter seen illegally shooting protected species.

Birdlife Malta’s Geoffrey Saliba rued what he called Malta’s missed opportunity of the abrogative referendum on the Spring hunting season, but said that an element of victory was also present.” 49% of the electorate voted in favour of life, in favour of the environment. As the Prime Minister said earlier today, this changes everything.”

Sultana disagreed with the Prime Minister ‘s attribution of hunting illegalities to “a small number of criminals,” saying that his teams “see them every day in the countryside.”

The stand taken by the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition had affected the outcome, as did an element of scaremongering. “I don’t think that all 51% were necessarily in favour of the Spring hunting season,” explaining that some were probably swayed by the politicians’ stance.

“We know that many Maltese voters follow the line taken by their respective political leaders, which makes the figure of 49% even more significant.”

At a press conference held this afternoon in Floriana, BirdLife Malta stated that despite the YES win to retain spring hunting, the environment movement in Malta has never had such strong support.

BirdLife Malta President Geoffrey Saliba said, “the referendum has been lost by a very few thousand votes. This means that yesterday virtually half the people of Malta voted in favour of life and in favour of nature. Half the population want things to change, and this is not something one can ignore. As even the Prime Minister said this morning, the picture has now changed forever.”

Mr Saliba made it clear that although BirdLife will respect the referendum result, this did not in any way alter BirdLife’s views about the issue.

“The killing birds in spring will remain detrimental to birds, especially those already in decline like turtle doves and quail, and is in no way sustainable,” Mr Saliba said. “We also feel responsible towards that half of the population who thinks the way we do.”

“The YES win means that turtle doves and will continue to be killed in Malta during the crucial spring migration and breeding season. Illegal hunting will no doubt continue, with activity hidden by the open spring hunting season; and the countryside will remain hostile to the public during the open spring hunting season,” BirdLife Malta said.

The SHout Campaign was a coalition of 14 groups, including BirdLife Malta which threw all its support and resources behind the campaign. Mr Saliba expressed his gratitude to all the NGOs, thanking the coordinating team in particular.

BirdLife Malta treasurer Mark Sultana, said, “Prime Minister Muscat confirmed that the Government took the clear message by the electorate that the environment is a priority, and promised to act on this message. He also promised to crack down hard on illegal hunting, and close the season if illegal hunting persists. We will hold him to these promises.”

Mr Saliba stated that BirdLife Malta will respect the referendum outcome and the decision of the Maltese public. He promised that BirdLife Malta will continue working for the protection of birds and the environment, and that stopping illegal hunting of protected birds in spring would remain a priority.

BirdLife Malta General Secretary Desirée Falzon stated that although the SHout campaign is now over, BirdLife Malta will not be stopping its efforts to raise environmental awareness. “Neither will it stop trying to put an end to illegal killing and trapping of birds, or to ensure effective enforcement of the law.”

“BirdLife will also keep up its educational work, in programmes and initiatives that we have been running for several decades,” said Ms Falzon. “These are the projects thanks to which half the people of this country today showed us that they have nature at heart.”

Ms Falzon added that BirdLife will continue working closely with the Government, with the public, with other environment organisations, in order to create more nature conservation projects, more natural places for everyone to enjoy, and more educational work.

“To do all this, however, we need all the support we can get,” added Ms Falzon. “This is why in the coming days BirdLife will launch a membership drive. We urge those many thousands of people who became part of the environment movement with their vote, to strengthen their support by joining as members.”

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