2018 could be the worst year for il­le­gal hunt­ing, Birdlife Malta warns

● Au­tumn hunt­ing sea­son opens to­mor­row

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Jeremy Mi­callef

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.

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