Health authorities are examining whether or not this year’s spring hunting season should be opened amid a COVID-19 outbreak, Superintendent for Public Health Charmaine Gauci has confirmed. However, she declined to take any formal position on the issue.
Speaking in a press conference yesterday, Gauci confirmed that the state was looking into the case after concerns were raised that open the spring season would be detrimental to recently introduced necessary but drastic measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Malta.
Police now have the power to break up public gatherings of more than three people and fine them €100 each. Meanwhile vulnerable groups, including anyone aged 65 and up, have been ordered to remain indoors unless it is absolutely essential.
The government has since called an urgent meeting of Malta’s Ornis Committee, who is responsible for overseeing hunting and trapping in the country, yesterday. They will meet at 4pm this afternoon to discuss whether the season should be opened.
Birdlife Malta has described the urgent meeting as effectively a rubber-stamp of the spring hunting season.
Enforcement of hunting laws has always been a major issue in Malta. However, with the police’s Administrative Law Enforcement unit, which oversees hunting regulations, now tasked with enforcing COVID-19 measures, there are concerns that the situation will only worsen.
“[Opening the season] would be government’s most irresponsible act ever,” Birdlife said.
In fact, Birdlife noted that according to EU law, police must assign seven officers per 1,000 hunters to enforce the law.
Hunting lobbies, which have a 15,000 strong membership, have called for the season to go ahead. However, with health concerns only growing, it remains to be seen how this situation will develop.