Autumn hunting moratorium now
With the killing of yet another protected bird yesterday, a Honey Buzzard, the toll of illegal hunting on protected bird species so far this autumn season has risen to 21 birds that have actually been recorded as having been illegally shot.
As such, it is high time that the government pulls the plug on this year’s autumn hunting season, at least until the annual migration of protected species wraps up sometime in mid-in October. The self-regulation that the hunter’s lobbies have spoken of so endearingly appears to be failing miserably.
The situation is now beyond ridiculous: the government must take immediate action and apply a zero tolerance policy to illegal hunting. As the death toll continues to rise, the government’s environmental rating will continue to plummet with equal speed.
The fact that it is, in reality, a few bad apples within the hunting community that are causing the problem is irrelevant. It is only when each and every hunter is well aware that their actions will have a lasting effect on their fellow hunters, and the repercussions that could come with that, that they will find it within themselves to rectify their ways.
The government was recently ready to back a call from hunters’ lobbies to apply a moratorium on spring hunting, so as to re-enforce their argument that Malta’s hunting practices have nothing to do with the decline in global numbers of turtledoves.
ONE YEAR LATER
Last year Malta had insisted on opening the spring hunting season and allow for the hunting of 5,000 turtledoves, despite calls from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which had placed the species on its red list, and the European Commission, which had warned at the time that Malta would have to justify its decision.
But when the country’s hunting lobbies this year proposed a moratorium on the spring hunting of the turtledove – to supposedly prove that Malta’s hunters are not responsible for the species decline in numbers – the government backed that call.
This move appears to have been motivated by one overriding exigency: to avoid the permanent closure of the spring hunting season.
This suggests yet another close collaboration between the country’s main hunting lobby after the government received word that the European Commission is to open yet another round of infringement proceedings against Malta over the dubious practice. Such a move threatens to land Malta back at the European Court of Justice, where a ruling against Malta, which appears all the more likely given the status of the turtledove, would finally close the spring hunting season once and for all.
The call for a moratorium, swiftly backed by the government, appears to back up this thesis. This, however, appears to be a stopgap measure aimed at pacifying Brussels and to ensure that spring hunting is not permanently wiped off the statute books for good.
While the concept of a spring turtledove moratorium is welcomed, as is any move to limit the further decline of any species – the reasons at play behind the scenes need to be examined.
The government has claimed repeatedly that it one that “listens” but in the particular case of the hunters’ call for the spring moratorium on turtledove hunting, it is one that apparently only listens to hunters – and not to the scientists at the ICUN or the policy makers at the Commission.
The government must, once and for all, give no quarter to these blatant lawbreakers and apply a zero tolerance policy to all forms of illegal hunting. After all, its credibility is on the line in more serious terms than merely facing another slap on the wrist or punitive fines from the European Court of Justice – illegal hunting is criminal and individuals cannot be allowed to run rampant and flout the law of the land with impunity.
If the government is to prove its mettle, it should immediately move to close the current autumn season, or at least suspend it until the migration of protected birds concludes, in the face of the illegalities that appear to be taking place with relative impunity.
Is the government waiting for permission from the hunting lobbies to close or suspend the season? And if not, what, exactly, is the government waiting for?