Finch trapping in Malta could be on its way out very soon, with the European Court of Justice expected to rule against the traditional pastime in the very near future, according to BirdLife Malta.
Although it will ultimately still be up to the Maltese government to decide whether or not to ban finch trapping, going against the ECJ will come at a hefty price to the nation as daily fines, calculated on Malta’s GDP, will be imposed on the government until it gets in line.
The decision will come as a blow to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who had reintroduced trapping in 2013 – allowing some 4,000 people to obtain trapping licenses. Trappers were incensed as their hobby was banned in 2009 as per Malta’s EU treaty accession, but Muscat offered them some respite by claiming to have found a loophole in EU legislation that would allow Malta to derogate from EU trapping legislation so long as it was strictly regulated.
The European Commission objected, and after its complaints fell on deaf ears, it decided to sue Malta at the ECJ. The decision, which is now expected in the coming days or weeks, is only expected to go one way after the ECJ’s own advocate general said last year that Malta’s trapping season had breached the Birds Directive.
The government will not be allowed to appeal the decision.
BirdLife CEO Mark Sultana
BirdLife Malta’s chief executive Mark Sultana said the government has been completely cornered and cannot escape the fact that trapping is on its way out.
“The government must accept the fact that political will isn’t a justified excuse to open the finch trapping season,” he told the press at BirdLife’s Ta’ Xbiex offices. “There’s no way out for the government now; it wouldn’t even cross our minds that it would defy the ECJ and choose to pay the fine.”
BirdLife are welcoming what it sees as an impending ban on the trapping season, a practice which the NGO has long warned is unforced, unregulated and wide open to abuse.
“Hunters and trappers got what the government had promised them behind closed doors and now feel they can do whatever they please,” Sultana said. “It’s incredible – Malta has made significant strides in animal welfare and circus legislation, but not in hunting and trapping.”