According to BirdLife Malta, the initial two weeks of Malta’s autumn hunting season have been marred by numerous incidents of illegal hunting – all due to a lack of enforcement to address the issue.
As the migration of protected European species over Malta is set to peak soon, the reduced police presence is likely to lead to more unauthorised hunting.
The season began on 1st September with roughly 10,000 active licenses, with regulations such as limited hunting times and protection for specific species in place. However, enforcement is lacking, with only a handful of officers from the Environmental Protection Unit (EPU) available and no plans to increase numbers during peak migration periods.
The EPU currently numbers only 15 officers that operate on a shift basis, while in past years, officer numbers were boosted to be able to field a stronger police presence at a time when the migration of various protected species peaks on the Maltese Islands.
During peak migration events expected in the coming days, a maximum of 1-2 police units that are specialised on hunting matters shall be operative on Malta – in Gozo, these specialised units were described as “non-existent”.
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Large birds like buzzards and eagles are vulnerable when they fly at low altitudes in the afternoons. And with the 3 pm hunting curfew recently removed, these birds were put at even greater risk.
Nicholas Barbara from BirdLife Malta expressed concerns about the lack of protection for birds and the consequences of weak enforcement.
Several illegal hunting incidents have been reported since the season’s opening – and BirdLife Malta along with the police have been informed of numerous shot birds, highlighting the rampant illegal hunting.
Incidents include the shooting of an Osprey, with the responding police unit arriving too late to catch the suspect. BirdLife Malta’s CEO, Mark Sultana, urges stronger enforcement for the protection of wild birds, emphasising that the EU has taken issue with Malta’s inadequate efforts to curb illegal bird hunting.
The primary obligation remains – to protect migrating birds that may end up as local taxidermy displays.
What do you make of this situation?