Malta has once again been told to stop allowing the trapping of finches, as necessitated by European law, in a final warning sent to the government by the European Commission.
In an announcement today, the Commission said it had sent a reasoned opinion to Malta on the matter – the last stage before it proceeds with further action before the European Court of Justice.
“The Commission is calling on Malta to correctly apply the Birds Directive, and discontinue its practice to authorise finch trapping. The Birds Directive requires a general system of protection for wild birds and allows derogations on hunting and trapping only subject to strict conditions,” the Commission said.
It stressed that these were key requirements in order to protect biodiversity across the EU.
Reacting to the announcement, environmental NGO BirdLife Malta said the Commission’s warning meant that trapping in Malta was coming to an end.
This is not the first time Malta has been called out by the Commission for breaching the laws on bird hunting and in fact, the government has allowed a finch trapping season to open under the guise of it being for research purposes.
“Malta has recently authorised finch trapping for research purposes, having previously authorised finch trapping for recreational purposes for several years, an action which was found to be non-compliant with the Birds Directive by the Court of Justice.
“In particular, the Commission considers that the new derogation scheme adopted in October 2020 authorising the trapping of finches for research purposes circumvents the judgment of the Court of Justice, by permitting trapping of finches in similar conditions,” the Commission said.
The Maltese government was sent a letter of formal notice, however, this was not replied to satisfactorily, with the Commission now deciding to send a reasoned opinion to Malta.
The Commission’s concerns will need to be replied to by the government within one month.
It added that a “shortened deadline aims to prevent serious and irreversible damage to the environment, in case the Republic of Malta intends to open yet another trapping season”.
Finch trapping is coming to an end – BirdLife
Following the announcement of Brussels’ action, BirdLife said that finch trapping in Malta was coming to an end.
“The European Commission has just sent a final warning to Malta as it today announced that a reasoned opinion has been sent to the Maltese government in relation to the infringement procedure initiated against Malta in December on finch trapping under the false pretence of a scientific and research study,” BirdLife said in a Facebook post.
It said that this second warning would be followed by court action if not replied to in a satisfactory manner, where the country will once again need to “defend the indefensible”.
Government analysing Commission’s opinion
In a statement, the Gozo Ministry – which is responsible for hunting in Malta – said that it would be analysing the Commission’s reasoned opinion and would be responding to it.
“The government remains committed, as it has done year after year, to protect the rights of hunters and trappers with full respect for the law,” read the statement.
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