Maltese 2008 spring hunting season banned by European Court
BirdLife International and BirdLife Malta welcomed yesterday’s decision by the European Court of Justice to issue interim measures ordering Malta not to open the 2008 spring hunting season for European Turtle-dove Streptopelia turtur and Common Quail Coturnix coturnix. This Order implies that the Court sees urgent need to prevent irreversible damage to these migratory bird species, while a final ruling on this case is pending and not expected before 2009.
In January 2008, based on a complaint by BirdLife, the European Commission took the Maltese government to Court for having allowed, every spring since the country’s accession to the EU in 2004, hunting and trapping of European Turtle-dove and Common Quail, in direct contravention of the EU Birds Directive. Malta is located on an important bird migration route in the Mediterranean. Hunting during the sensitive breeding and spring migration period is prohibited under EU law, in all Member States.
"Although we regret it had to come this far - and Europe-wide embarrassment has been caused for Malta - we are now confident that government-authorised spring hunting has become a thing of the past in Malta. At the same time we hope that the Maltese government, police and all stakeholders will work together to clamp down on the still widely spread illegal hunting and trapping in the country" —Konstantin Kreiser, EU Policy Manager, BirdLife International
The Court stressed in paragraph 48 of its Order the importance of protecting the EU’s common heritage and stated that “the interest of hunters does not appear to have a value superior thereto”.
Joseph Mangion, President of BirdLife Malta commented: "We are pleased to see that the court has acknowledged the importance of protecting the common natural heritage of the European Union and its member states as overriding the individual interests of the Maltese hunters, who have the opportunity nonetheless to hunt these same birds in autumn. Malta has a special responsibility as it is the southernmost central Mediterranean country through which migratory birds first pass on their way to their European breeding grounds, and we should be setting an example rather than seeking exceptions.”
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