Malta taken to European Union court over finch trapping – Government says it will defend country’s right to apply derogation

The European Commission is referring Malta to the EU Court of Justice for its decision to allow finch trapping. The Commission said the case concerns Malta’s decision to allow the live capture of seven species of wild finches as from 2014.

The Maltese government said it will defend  Malta’s right to apply finch live capturing through the application of a derogation in line with EU laws.

BirdLife welcomed the European Commission’s decision.

“We are now seeking clarification with the Commission as to whether they will be applying interim measures to suspend the practice for the duration of the court case.” Nicholas Barbara, Conservation Manager of BirdLife Malta said.

In a tweet it added:

“If EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella does not apply an interim court junction, thousands of finches will be trapped from the wild in just 26 days.”

In the EU, the capture and keeping of bird species like finches is generally prohibited. However, member states may derogate from the strict protection requirement if there is no other satisfactory solution, and if the derogation is used judiciously, with small numbers and strict supervision.

“As these conditions are not met in this case, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice in October 2014, urging Malta to refrain from finch trapping. Despite this warning, Malta went ahead as planned with the opening of a finch trapping season in 2014.

The Commission, therefore, sent a reasoned opinion in May 2015, urging Malta to end the practice. Malta has replied, contesting the Commission’s analysis. Since Malta has not committed to end finch trapping, the Commission has, therefore, decided to refer Malta to the Court of Justice,” the commission said.

Malta was allowed a transitional arrangement in the Accession Treaty to phase out finch trapping, taking into account the time required to establish a captive breeding programme. The transitional arrangement expired in 2008.

The case concerns the live capture of seven species: chaffinch Fringilla coelebs, linnet Carduelis cannabina, goldfinch Carduelis carduelis, greenfinch Carduelis chloris, hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes, serin Serinus serinus and siskin Carduelis spinus.

The government said it had ascertained ascertained, through a scientific assessment, that the application of this derogation did not negatively impact the population status of the seven finch species.

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