PN avoids advocating hunting season closure following illegalities
The Nationalist Party will not be calling on government to close this hunting season following an alarming number of reported illegalities.
Opposition spokesperson for hunting Charlo Bonnici told The Malta Independent that the government should stick to its word and enforce the law in order to ensure that all illegalities related to hunting are kept in check.
However, he failed to specify what the PN’s position is over this controversial matter.
Back in 2007, a Nationalist administration had decided to close that year’s hunting season after the government received reports of illegal hunting of protected species.
Rural Affairs and Environment Minister at the time, George Pullicino, had explained that the decision had been taken after consultations with Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi. The season was closed off 10 days prior to the official date.
Charlo Bonnici said that there needs to be a coordinated effort which should also include the involvement of hunters themselves. However, Mr Bonnici said “the onus rests primarily with the government to ensure that illegalities are curbed. Ultimately illegal hunting is a matter for which the government must answer to the public.”
Yesterday, this newspaper published a story saying that the Prime Minister has the power to close down the hunting season even without a recommendation by Ornis Committee. Despite this, in a reply to questions sent to a spokesperson of the Prime Minister, it was said the suspension of the hunting season is a prerogative of the Ornis Committee.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has suspended the hunting
season twice before in two separate occasions and he did so without a formal recommendation by the Ornis Committee. However, even after a season which was characterised by at least 23 cases of protected birds being shot down illegally, the Prime Minister has remained silent.
Both the PN and the Labour Party had publicly said they are in favour of spring hunting. These statements came from the two leaders before a referendum which was won by the ‘yes’ campaign.
Speaking to The Malta Independent, BirdLife CEO Mark Sultana said that this hunting season is probably the worst one in the last five years when it comes to reported cases of illegal hunting.
He said that the government’s silence is worrying. “Joseph Muscat has the power to stop the hunting season. He did so twice before and he should do so now as the situation already seems to be out of control.”
But when asked if the government would be willing to suspend this season following the numerous reported cases, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said that suspension is Ornis Committee’s prerogative.
“According to the regulations, for a hunting season to be suspended or for its parameters to be changed, the prerogative stands with Ornis Committee,” the spokesperson said.
However, Mr Sultana argued that the Prime Minister did not follow any Ornis recommendation before halting hunting seasons before. “I am surprised to see the difference between the Prime Minister’s immediate reaction two years ago, and the lack of action now,” the BirdLife CEO added.
“I think what the Prime Minister is doing is simply passing the buck to someone else and trying to waste time.”
He said that the only thing which changed from 2014 till this day is that the enforcement became even weaker.
The Prime Minister had suspended the hunting season three days ahead of is official closure back in April of 2015 when a protected bird of prey was shot down by a hunter and fell into the football pitch of a school in Cottonera.
A year earlier, the Prime Minister did the same thing and ordered the season’s suspension. The government had decided to immediately stop the hunting season following incidents where protected birds were shot down.