17/10/2007
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EC fires final warning shot at Malta

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The European Commission has announced today (17th October 2007) that it will fire a final warning shot at Malta over its continued allowance of illegal spring shooting and hunting of Quail and Turtle Dove, which are in contravention of the European Union's Birds Directive. The commission decided today to send a final written warning ('reasoned opinion') to the island's government. Malta is located on an important bird migration route in the Mediterranean. The European Union's Birds Directive specifically protects birds during their perilous spring migration from Africa to their breeding grounds further north in Europe, including the UK.


Turtle Dove (Photo: Fraser Simpson)

Turtle Dove and Quail are both suffering from declines across Europe, and in the UK both species appear on the red list of Birds of Conservation Concern. With its partners across Europe, the RSPB has been campaigning for action against Malta's illegal spring bird hunting and shooting. Alistair Gammell, the RSPB's international director, said: "Every spring since Malta joined the European Union in 2004, the island's government has allowed its hunters to break European law by shooting and hunting Turtle Dove and Quail - these practices must stop.

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"We are delighted that the European Commission has taken the next step in legal proceedings against Malta. We now call on the island's government to heed this warning and eradicate these illegal practices that bring shame on both Malta and Europe. "We believe the European Commission's warning to Malta marks a turning point for bird conservation. If the island finally eradicates spring hunting this will be a victory for all those who have long campaigned for its abolition, including those 115,000 RSPB supporters who signed a petition delivered to the Maltese Prime Minister earlier this year."

The RSPB and BirdLife Malta - the RSPB's partner on the island - are urging the Maltese government to respond to the Commission's warning by officially declaring the end of spring hunting for 2008 and beyond. If it fails to do so, the groups will urge the European Commission to apply to the European Court of Justice for an immediate order blocking spring hunting for 2008 and beyond.


Lesser Kestrel (Photo: John Gardner)

Tolga Temuge, CEO of BirdLife Malta, added: "Another spring hunting season in 2008 would mean that once again tens of thousands of Turtle Dove and Quail would be put at risk while crossing Malta. In addition, every open spring hunting season is used as an excuse by some hunters to shoot many other species, protected in Malta and Europe, including birds of prey and herons. Some of these species, such as Lesser Kestrel, Saker Falcon and Pallid Harrier, are threatened with global extinction."

During spring 2007, BirdLife Malta continuously received illegal hunting reports from birdwatchers and from members of the general public. On May 9th, following the slaughter of approximately 100 Honey Buzzardsin the south of the island of Malta, the Ministry for Rural Affairs and the Environment was forced to abruptly close the spring hunting season.
Written by: RSPB