Friday, 30 August 2013

Changes to Autumn Hunting Introduced

The Malta government has announced the autumn hunting season and revealed that the hours of the mid-season curfew will be reduced. The news has been welcomed by the FKNK, the hunters’ federation, as the government’s first step towards the eliminating the curfew, which it said was imposed on the hunting season. However, environmental and animal welfare groups have strongly criticised the government for not protecting migrating birds from illegal hunters.

The Government stated that, on the recommendation of the Ornis Committee, the season will open on 1 September and close on 31 January for hunting on land and open on 1 October for hunting at sea. The dates are unchanged from previous years but a curfew after 3 pm between September 15 and 30 has been reduced. The hunting of birds on land shall be permitted during two hours before sunrise and two hours after sunset on any day between Monday and Saturday and during two hours before sunrise and after 1pm on Sundays and public holidays.

However hunting on land between 15 September and 7 October will not be permitted from Mondays to Saturdays after 7pm, nor during the two hours before sunrise of the following day.

This action is a clear confirmation that the government is gradually giving in to the hunting lobby and has no environmental conscience whatsoever. Max Farrugia, Chairman of International Animal Rescue in Malta, said: “This is not an electoral mandate because I could not trace it in the electoral manifesto but might be part of the talks which the hunting lobby group and the government had before the elections. I am convinced that this legal notice regarding the hunting season will give a green light for more illegal hunting even though the government has insisted that the police and army will be joining forces to curb the illegalities and that there will be zero tolerance.

“I am sure that the politically appointed Chairman  of Ornis, who I know used to be a bird watcher in his teens, knows well that birds of prey such as vultures, eagles and falcons leave the Sicilian coast and cross the Sicilian straits, reaching the Maltese Islands after 3pm. It is then that the illegal hunters embark on their killing and destruction.”

Farrugia added that everyone knows that Maltese hunters are very difficult to control and in his opinion this is why hunting was not allowed after 3 pm.

The Coalition for the Abolition of Spring Hunting (CASH) which was set up a few days before the legal notice was issued, condemned the government’s decision to reduce the hunting curfew between 15-30 September by four hours. A spokesperson for the coalition said this was a clear sign that there was little interest from the government in ensuring the conservation of migratory birds over the Maltese Islands.

The coalition urged the Maltese public to sign its petition calling for a referendum to ban spring hunting. "This is an opportunity to show that the Maltese population cares for wildlife, bird conservation and democracy," it said.

 During recent days shots have been heard in the south of the island in the notorious areas of Zonqor Point and Marsascala. The first migrating birds have already started to pass over Malta and already the first victim has been brought in - a night heron with an injured wing.

Three flamingos were also shot down when a flock flew over Malta and some of them tried to make a stopover. With the help of some local residents the police managed to trace the killers and those who helped in the killing of one flamingo in Gozo and five people were arrested. The bird was found in a freezer. According to eye witnesses the bird was shot down and fell in the sea where it was retrieved by a hunting dog.

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Petition Launched for a Referendum on Abolition of Spring Hunting

The 'Coalition for the Abolition of Spring Hunting' (CASH) has formally launched a petition calling for the holding of a referendum on the abolition of spring hunting.

The coalition is made up of the Ramblers Association of Malta, Nature Trust, Moviment Graffiti, International Animal Rescue Malta, Greenhouse Malta, Gaia Foundation, Friends of the Earth Malta, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Coalition for Animal Rights, BirdLife Malta and Alternattiva Demokratika.

The petition reads:

“We the undersigned persons being registered as voters for the election of members of the House of Representatives demand that the question whether the following provision of law, that is to say Framework for Allowing a Derogation Opening a Spring Hunting Season for Turtledove and Quail Regulations (Subsidiary Legislation 504.94 – Legal Notice 221 of 2010), should not continue in force, shall be put to those entitled to vote in a referendum under Part V of the Referendum Act.”

In order for the referendum to be called at least 34,000 Maltese who are eligible to vote in a general election must sign the petition. The petition for the referendum cannot be signed online. Copies of the petition are being made  available from or from the members  of the Coalition mentioned above. 

During a press conference coalition spokesperson Rudolph Ragonesi described the referendum as a “real chance for the people of Malta to end the cat and mouse game between the European Union and Malta that means spring hunting continues against the wishes of the vast majority of the Maltese population.”

Members of the coalition complained during the press conference that both major political parties had committed themselves to protect spring hunting. Max Farrugia from International Animal Rescue Malta said that during the election campaign protection of spring hunting was one of the issues but soon after the elections the new government removed the €50 special licence fee and identification armbands for registered hunters. As a result there were 50% more registered hunters during the spring hunting season of 2013 compared with 2012.

It is worth noting that spring hunting is possible in Malta through a derogation of the EU Birds Directive.  Hunting is allowed in spring for Turtle Dove (Gamiema) and Quail (Summiena) but both have become species of conservation concern because their numbers are declining so rapidly in Europe, the coalition said.  Continued hunting in spring put Malta at risk of action such as fines from the EU.

It was stated in the press conference that "From a conservation and hunting point of view  it makes no sense to hunt birds that are returning to their breeding grounds. These are the birds that have survived the winter and would replenish bird populations if they reached their breeding grounds. Killing them in spring is therefore unsustainable." 

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