Joy at Maltese hunting ban
BirdLife International, BirdLife Malta and the RSPB have today welcomed the Maltese Prime Minister's announcement last night that the spring hunting of Quail and Turtle Dove will be banned on the islands in 2009.
Replying to questions on Maltese TV last night, Dr. Lawrence Gonzi said that no spring hunting could take place while the court case was pending, so as not to prejudice the case at the European Court of Justice. "The Prime Minister's decision gives us hope that Malta is starting to take serious action for the protection of the European Union's common natural heritage," said Joseph Mangion, BirdLife Malta President. "We ask all political parties to join together on this issue and stop seeing spring hunting as a conflict between two sides, but as a serious conservation issue."
Each spring many species of birds pass through Malta as they migrate from Africa to nesting grounds in Europe. The species include birds of prey, herons, Quail, Turtle Dove and many species of small bird, including warblers, thrushes and flycatchers.
Alistair Gammell is the director of the RSPB's International division. Hearing the news, he said: "The government's hunting ban this spring will save the lives of many birds, but perhaps, more importantly, we're taking this as a positive step forward in the long-running campaign to encourage Malta to honour international bird protection laws. Prime Minister Gonzi has taken a bold stance and he has our full support. No-one ever believed that tackling illegal hunting on the islands would be easy, but we do believe that this ban is a significant step forward towards the ultimate goal of giving protected migratory birds an easier journey across the islands."
The RSPB has been working with partners, especially BirdLife Malta, to bring illegal hunting in Malta to an end. In January 2007, the RSPB delivered a 115,000-strong petition requesting an immediate halt to illegal spring hunting and for Malta to comply with the European Union's Birds Directive, which outlaws spring hunting across the European Union.
Alistair Gammell added: "BirdLife International's European partnership hopes Maltese hunters, like their fellow hunters in the EU, will respect the Birds Directive protecting wild birds during their breeding and spring migration periods. This will benefit the conservation of wild birds across Europe and thus there will be more birds in the autumn, when hunters can hunt legally."
Last Monday, the European Commission launched a guide on the hunting of wild birds to ensure the activity is carried out in accordance with EU nature legislation, the Wild Birds Directive. The guide focuses on the timing of recreational hunting, on minimising the risk of disturbing birds and their habitats and on conditions for allowing hunting under exceptional circumstances. Although there is a general ban on the killing of wild birds, certain species can be hunted outside breeding and prenuptial (or spring) migration periods. These closed periods are critical and allow wild birds to renew their numbers, the Commission said. The EU guide to the sustainable hunting of wild birds can be found at http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/09/398&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en