Malta an­nounces finch trap­ping sea­son in face of EU le­gal ac­tion

● 27,500 finches legally put up for grabs

Malta Independent - - NEWS - David Lind­say

The gov­ern­ment an­nounced on Fri­day the open­ing of the bird trap­ping sea­son, de­spite the fact that Malta is fac­ing le­gal ac­tion by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion over al­low­ing the trap­ping of seven species of finch.

The bird trap­ping sea­son will open on 20 Oc­to­ber and will close on 31 De­cem­ber, ac­cord­ing to a Le­gal No­tice pub­lished on Fri­day.

The gov­ern­ment has al­lowed for the trap­ping of a to­tal of 33,200 birds – 27,500 of which are finches. Each trap­ping li­cence holder will be al­lowed to trap 10 finches dur­ing the sea­son, and six song thrushes or golden plovers – mean­ing that each trap­per will be al­lowed a to­tal of 16 birds over the nine-week sea­son.

In Sep­tem­ber 2015 the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion re­ferred Malta to the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice for its de­ci­sion to al­low finch trap­ping as of 2014. Malta was al­lowed a tran­si­tional ar­range­ment in the EU Ac­ces­sion Treaty to phase out finch trap­ping, tak­ing into ac­count the time re­quired to es­tab­lish a cap­tive breed­ing pro­gramme. This tran­si­tional ar­range­ment ex­pired in 2008.

The cur­rent case be­fore the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice con­cerns Malta’s de­ci­sion to al­low the live cap­ture of seven species of wild finches as from 2014. In the EU, the cap­ture and keep­ing of bird species such as finches is gen­er­ally pro­hib­ited. Mem­ber states may, how­ever, dero­gate from the strict pro­tec­tion re­quire­ment if there is no other sat­is­fac­tory so­lu­tion and if the dero­ga­tion is used ju­di­ciously, with small num­bers and un­der strict su­per­vi­sion.

In Malta’s case, such con­di­tions are not be­ing met, hence the EC’s le­gal ac­tion.

The Com­mis­sion sent a let­ter of for­mal no­tice in Oc­to­ber 2014, when it re­opened the trap­ping sea­son, urg­ing Malta to re­frain from finch trap­ping. De­spite the warn­ing, Malta went ahead as planned with the open­ing of a finch trap­ping sea­son in 2014.

The Com­mis­sion then sent a rea­soned opin­ion in May 2015 urg­ing Malta to end the prac­tice. Malta replied, con­test­ing the Com­mis­sion’s analysis and since it has not com­mit­ted to end finch trap­ping, the Com­mis­sion has de­cided to re­fer Malta to the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice.

In Europe, many species of wild birds are in de­cline, and markedly so in some cases. This de­cline dis­turbs the bi­o­log­i­cal bal­ance and is a se­ri­ous threat to the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment. The Di­rec­tive on the con­ser­va­tion of wild birds aims to pro­tect all species of wild birds that oc­cur nat­u­rally in the Union.

The Di­rec­tive bans ac­tiv­i­ties that di­rectly threaten birds such as de­lib­er­ate killing or cap­ture, the de­struc­tion of nests and re­moval of eggs and as­so­ci­ated ac­tiv­i­ties such as trad­ing in live or dead birds, with a few ex­cep­tions. It also places great em­pha­sis on the pro­tec­tion of habi­tats for en­dan­gered and mi­gra­tory species, es­pe­cially through the Finches To­tal sea­sonal bag limit Lin­net 12,000 Goldfinch 800 Green­finch 4,500 Siskin 2,350 Hawfinch 500 Chaffinch 5,000 Serin 2,350 To­tal 27,500 Sea­sonal bag limit per li­cence: 10


To­tal sea­sonal bag limit Song Thrush 5,000 Golden Plover 700 To­tal 5,700 Sea­sonal bag limit per li­cence: 6

es­tab­lish­ment of a net­work of Spe­cial Pro­tec­tion Ar­eas (SPAs).

Ar­ti­cle 9 of the Di­rec­tive pro­vides lim­ited scope for dero­ga­tions from the re­quire­ment of strict pro­tec­tion where there is no other sat­is­fac­tory so­lu­tion, for in­stance, in the in­ter­ests of pub­lic health and safety or air safety, to pre­vent se­ri­ous dam­age to crops, live­stock, forests, fish­eries and wa­ter, and for the pro­tec­tion of flora and fauna. Dero­ga­tions may also be per­mit­ted for the pur­poses of re­search and teach­ing, re­pop­u­la­tion, rein­tro­duc­tion and for the breed­ing nec­es­sary for th­ese pur­poses.

Former Mal­tese Min­is­ter turned EU En­vi­ron­ment Com­mis­sioner Kar­menu Vella has been in direct con­flict with the same gov­ern­ment that, af­ter mak­ing him Com­mis­sioner, has ig­nored his re­peated calls to put an end to finch trap­ping, bluntly say­ing that Malta’s finch trap­ping sea­son is “in breach of EU law”.

In com­ments to this news­room last Sep­tem­ber, when the Com­mis­sion de­cided to take Malta be­fore the ECJ, Mr Vella said: “Our po­si­tion re­mains that such prac­tice is in breach of EU law that is in place to pro­tect Europe’s birds and habi­tats, hence the Col­lege of Com­mis­sion­ers’ de­ci­sion to re­fer Malta to the Court of Jus­tice of the Euro­pean Union over finch trap­ping.

“The Com­mis­sion, as guardian of the Treaties, re­mains fully com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing that the Mal­tese leg­isla­tive frame­work on trap­ping dero­ga­tions strictly re­spects Union law.”

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