2018 could be the worst year for illegal hunting, Birdlife Malta warns
● Autumn hunting season opens tomorrow
Birdlife Malta has warned that this year’s autumn hunting season, which opens tomorrow, could be “the worst year for illegal hunting.”
The organisation bases its claim on the fact that the number of illegally shot birds has almost doubled this year compared to 2017.
The government yesterday announced that the autumn hunting season from land will start on 1 September and end on 31 January. The hunting season on the sea starts on 1 October, also ending on 31 January.
In a statement, Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri said he hoped that hunters would sustain their hobby by following the law to the letter. “No irresponsible action will be tolerated and enforcement will be rigorous,” the statement said.
Hunting can take place from two hours before sunrise to two hours after sunset between Monday and Saturday, and until 1pm on Sundays and public holidays. Hunting from land will not be allowed from 7pm onwards between 15 September and 7 October.
Addressing a press conference yesterday afternoon, Birdlife Malta said it had written to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, asking him to delay the start of the next hunting season until 15 October.
According to Birdlife Malta CEO Mark Sultana, this is the only way the government can send a clear message that abuse – such as the recent massacre of white storks – will no longer be tolerated.
“If the government does not make this clear, as it did in 2015, then more birds are going to be needlessly killed.”
The request is also supported by several other eNGOs, including Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Nature Trust-FEE Malta, Din l-Art Ħelwa, fish4tomorrow and Sharklab-Malta.
Birdlife Malta also encourages the authorities to take “concrete steps which would not only be visible but also executive,” particularly by setting up a dedicated wildlife crime unit, with the unanimous support of the Ornis Committee. It also reiterates its belief that police presence and visibility in the countryside needs to be improved.
“Now is the time for the government to prove that it can be taken seriously when it says it will not tolerate the flagrant abuse of Malta’s environmental laws. It is also the time for the Maltese government to declare its support for the absolute majority of Maltese citizens who are fed up with the illegal killing of protected birds.”
Last year had the highest casualty count in terms of known shot protected birds, with a total of 82 birds between January and December. Prior to this, the highest number of casualties was registered in 2013 with a total of 76 known shot protected birds, with the numbers of illegal hunting casualties decreasing over the next three years.
BirdLife also noted that should the number of protected birds shot between September and December this year be similar to the same period last year, it would mean that 2018 would be the worst year for illegal hunting.
It said that this, ironically,was the year in which the prime minister had promised to improve the situation.