EC’s action on finch trapping welcomed but is too late to be effective – BLM
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BirdLife Malta has today welcomed the European Commission’s formal warning to Malta four days prior to the official opening of a finch trapping season, but has however deemed the action as being “too little, too late.”
The infringement, opened today by way of a letter of formal notice, is the first in a series of warnings that may lead to the European Court of Justice, in reaction to the Government’s decision to open a finch trapping season this 20th October 2014.
Describing the European Commission’s warning as being too weak to have any tangible effect, BirdLife Malta criticised the Commission’s “untimely reluctance to take immediate steps to halt the season, pointing out that this has allowed the Government to permit new trapping licenses, and the registration of an exaggerated amount of trapping sites to the detriment of Malta’s wild flora and fauna this autumn.”
The season which will open this Monday, is permitted by means of legislation issued in July 2014 following an Ornis Committee decision made in June 2014. BirdLife Malta had alerted the Commission to these developments counteracting the Wild Bird Regulations’ Unit argument tabled at the Ornis Committee that the trapping of wild finches was a justified activity.
Commenting on these development’s BirdLife Malta’s Conservation Manager Nicholas Barbara said, “while it is clear that the European Commission does not agree with the argument that the trapping of wild finches for recreational purposes is a justified legitimate activity permitted by a derogation from a Directive meant to protect wild birds, the season opening this Monday will see no less than 4,600 trappers operating over 8,000 sites cleared of vegetation for trapping purposes. “
He added, “large areas of Maltese countryside have already been evidently cleared, torched or bulldozed over, even within protected Natura 2000 sites, to make way for these installations operating for the next two months.”
“The infringement case opened today, does not follow up on an earlier case opened by the European Commission wherein two warnings had been issued in June 2011 and February 2012 respectively. This move means that at least another two warnings can be formally replied to by government prior to the matter being disputed at the European Court of Justice,” BLM said.
The Government has today in fact already notified that it would be challenging the Commission’s warning and would proceed ahead with permitting the season.
Mr Barbara added, “the letter of formal notice from the European Commission is just the first step in a long process that may result in Malta being challenged to halt this practice. Unfortunately the Commission’s decision not to take Malta straight to the European Court only means that the issue will persist for years allowing the possibility of other finch trapping seasons.”
BirdLife Malta expressed its intention to maintain pressure on the European Commission. BirdLife Malta Executive Director Steve Micklewright said, “There are over forty MEPs waiting to meet the new European Commissioner who will deal with environment issues to discuss how Malta allows these abuses to the Birds Directives. Trapping will be high on the agenda.”