Trapping, spring hunting and illegal killing of wild birds in Malta
What are the problems?
The Maltese islands lie on the central European-African migration flyway used by millions of birds each spring and autumn. A total of 384 bird species have been recorded in Malta. Of these, 170 occur regularly on migration. Through ringing studies these birds are known to link Malta to 36 European and 12 African countries
Since Malta joined the European Union it is obliged to transpose and implement EU Nature legislation. Despite this the Maltese Government continued to allow spring hunting of two bird species - European Turtle-Dove Streptopelia turtur and Common Quail Coturnix coturnix from 2004 until 2007.
Moreover every spring and autumn, many protected migratory species are shot on their passage between Europe and Africa. Some of these species are threatened with global extintion, such as the Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni, Saker Falcon Falco cherrug, Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus and others. In general the respect to environmental law by hunters in Malta is low. Every spring and autumn BirdLife Malta and many supporting NGOs from all over Europe record the number of illegally shot or injured birds, among which raptors are especially popular targets. For more details see BirdLife Malta reports.
While Malta negotiated a transition period to phase out trapping of seven species of finch till the end of 2008, after accession it continued to allow the trapping of another four species of birds in violation of the EU Birds Directive. The European Commission last June started infringement proceedings against Malta for permitting the trapping of these four species, and as a result the Maltese government did not open a trapping season this year. No finch trapping season has opened since January 2009. Illegal trapping is however, widespread.
What is BirdLife doing?
BirdLife Malta with the support of BirdLife International, the RSPB (BirdLife in UK) and other European Partners campaigns for stopping spring hunting, trapping and illegal hunting. BirdLife lodged a formal complaint with the European Commission against spring hunting and trapping in July 2005 and keeps the Commission informed through regular briefings and up-dates.
To solve the problem, BirdLife communicates with different target groups ranging from high level decision makers on national and EU level to young people and the public in Malta. As a result BirdLife Malta's high profile campaign has received huge support from different sectors of the Maltese society. Moreover BirdLife Malta is currently carrying out an information project to inform the Maltese citizens about the impacts of trapping on wildlife and the benefits Malta can gain once illegal trapping is under control.
BirdLife Malta also organises two international camps each year – Spring Watch Camp in April and Raptor Camp in September. The volunteers come from many countries including the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Denmark and Finland to help monitor bird migration and act as a deterrent to illegal hunting by reporting illegal activities to the police force. BirdLife Malta also rehabilitates the injured protected birds it receives and releases them back into the wild. See example case of three released Western Marsh-harriers Circus aeruginosus.
BirdLife Malta also works very closely with the law enforcement units in Malta to scale down the illegal hunting. Although the fines were recently increased, in reality many poachers pay minimum fines. Nevertheless, as a result of BirdLife’s field operations many poachers have been caught and brought to justice over the last years.
The European Commission started an infringement procedure against Malta in June 2006 on the basis of the BirdLife complaint on spring hunting. The Commission brought the case to the European Court of Justice in January 2008 as the Maltese government failed to stop spring hunting and its arguments were not deemed as satisfactory. In April 2008 the Court imposed an interim measure forcing Malta not to open spring hunting season in 2008. After many years of campaigning, 2008 was the first time ever that spring hunting was banned.
In 2009, the European Court of Justice ruled that by allowing spring hunting in 2004-2007 Malta had failed to comply with the conditions for a derogation and, accordingly, has failed to fulfil its obligations under the Directive. Despite this ruling, the Maltese government opened a six day spring hunting season in 2010, resulting in the European Commission renewing legal action over Malta's spring hunt in October 2010.
The European Commission has yet to react to this year’s opening of a three week spring hunting season with larger bag limits than in 2010.
Finch trapping has stopped as of 1 January 2009 in line with the Accession Treaty Agreement signed between Malta and the EU, however trapping of an additional four species continued up till 2010. Following the start of infringement proceedings against Malta in June 2011, no trapping season has been opened in 2011
What can you do?
- Donate to support the important work of BirdLife Malta
- Support our casework by joining BirdLife International and BirdLife Malta.
- Join the action of BirdLife Malta like Spring Watch or autumn Raptor Camp, please see BirdLife Malta website for actual information
- Join BirdLife’s e-news circulation for updates on this and other cases
Next Page » Birds Directive - species protection
- BirdLife Malta website
- BirdLife lodged a formal complaint with the EC on spring hunting in Malta
- Europe takes action against Malta's spring shooting
- EU issues final warning to Malta for spring hunting
- EU takes Malta to Court over spring hunting
- Maltese 2008 spring hunting season banned by European Court