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.