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Government appeases the hunting lobby at the expense of raptors – BLM

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Government appeases the hunting lobby at the expense of raptors - BLMReacting to Monday’s Government announcement of the 2014 autumn hunting season, BirdLife Malta described recent amendments to Malta’s bird conservation laws by Government “as another move to appease the hunting lobby at the expense of rare and protected birds of prey.”

The amendments, enacted earlier in July set permanently the dates of the autumn hunting season and permanently revoked a 3pm curfew, BLM said.

BirdLife added, “since 2007, between the 15th September and 30th September, a 3pm curfew had been enforced to specifically protect migrating birds of prey as they came in to roost. Having completed their breeding season in Europe, birds of prey typically arrive in their masses during this period as they make their way south to winter in Africa. Birds arriving late during the day scour the Maltese countryside flying low in search of suitable roosting sites, making them easy targets.”

“However, in 2013, this curfew was moved by 4 hours to 7pm despite opposition raised by BirdLife Malta over the inefficacy of the measure. A scientific study carried at Buskett in 1998, had shown that the majority of birds of prey (Honey Buzzard and Marsh Harrier) roost well before 7pm, with birds settling into vegetation as early as 3pm. The results of this study were the reason for a curfew from 3pm onwards, with the aim of providing some safety to these birds from illegal hunting,”

“BirdLife Malta’s Raptor Camp in 2013 had recorded 54.5% of shooting at protected species occurring after 3pm.” BirdLife stated, “the Government has claimed that in 2013 there was a reduction in cases after 3pm and no cases were prosecuted by police for illegal hunting after 7pm.”

Reacting to Parliamentary Secretary Roderick Galdes’ statement that “2013 autumn enforcement statistics showed that enforcement measures have worked”, BirdLife’s Conservation Manager Nicholas Barbara said: “The fact that police did not convict anyone of illegal hunting after 7pm does not mean that illegal hunting did not occur – it just highlights the burden placed on the police to enforce a curfew in the dark.”

BirdLife Malta said that it has also criticised the way in which the Government has permanently removed the 3pm curfew and fixed it at 7pm. “This was not recommended by Ornis but has been done on the recommendation of the Government’s Wild Birds Regulation Unit, whose representative sits on the same Committee.”

Nicholas Barbara said, “We now have a situation where the unit’s representative takes matters ahead to Government totally bypassing the Ornis Committee, making the purpose of this Committee increasingly pointless.”

BirdLife Malta said that it will once again this year be organising its annual Raptor Camp, focussing on the peak migration of birds of prey. The camp involves the participation of volunteers who seek to assist enforcement authorities in tackling the illegal targeting of birds of prey.

A black stork shot down in the afternoon of the 25th September 2013 at San Blas, Gozo. Photo by Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS)

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