With the highly disputed bird trapping season kicking off this week in Malta, it can be difficult to identify what’s legal and who’s breaking the law.
This is especially the case given that hunters and trappers in Malta are unfortunately known for breaking the law, with countless amounts of protected birds killed throughout each season.
With the help of information prepared by BirdLife Malta, here’s all you need to know about Malta’s bird trapping season – and what to do when you think you’ve stumbled upon illegal practice in Malta’s countryside.
Which birds can be trapped?
The birds that can be trapped are the Song Trush and the Golden Plover, known as Malvizz and Pulviera in Maltese respectively.
National quotas are set at 5,000 Song Thrush and 700 Golden Plover. There is no individual bag limit for trapping of both species. All other birds cannot be trapped.
Finches are also allowed to be trapped by Malta’s government – however, this directly goes against EU Law.
Where is trapping allowed?
Nets for trapping can only be used at sites authorised and licensed by the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU).
A total of 1,364 trapping sites were authorised to trap in 2023. The locations of permitted trapping sites can be found here. Trapping should not be authorised on habitats deemed as protected, but unfortunately may be authorised on public land or land belonging to third parties, as long as this has been registered with WBRU.
When is trapping allowed?
20th October – 31st October: only Song Thrush can be trapped
1st November – 31st December: both Song Thrush and Golden Plover can be trapped
1st January – 10th January: only Golden Plover can be trapped
Trapping is permitted during the entire day without timing or weekend/public holiday restrictions. During the night, trappers are obliged to dismantle their nets or cover them.
It is not permitted for nets to be be left unattended due to their possibility of catching and harming other birds and fauna in the area.
When can trapping be illegal?
Unauthorised use of land
In the cases of trapping occurring on land which has not been authorised to be used as such by the WBRU, then the site is operating illegally, irrespective of the species that it is focusing on.
As mentioned above, finch trapping is allowed by Malta’s government. However, this is considered to be illegal practice on an EU level, after it was declared so back in 2018.
In spite of the 2018 ECJ finch trapping judgement, in 2020 and yet again in 2021, 2022 and 2023, the Government also announced a trapping season for finches under the guise of a research project.
With the excuse that they will be carrying out a scientific study, trappers this year are once again permitted to trap Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Hawfinch, Chaffinch, Serin, Linnet and Siskin between 20th October and 20th December 2023, both days included.
Trappers are expected to release the birds soon after they catch them, after recording details of birds carrying a ring and submitting the information to WBRU.
Use of bird callers
If you’ve ever been in the countryside and noticed a repetitive bird calling that gets monotonous after a while, in tandem with hunting or trapping, then you’ve encountered an illegal bird caller.
The use of bird callers is illegal in combination with trapping and hunting.
However, in cases where it is done for the finch (research), it is legal and can be done at all times.
A bird caller can be distinguished from the call of caged birds by being often repetitive, loud and continuing on for hours, especially at night.
What should I do if I encounter illegal practice?
According to BirdLife Malta, you can report the matter as follows in such cases:
1. Know your location adequately, ideally with a GPS coordinate you can refer to from your smart phone
2. Take photos and videos as necessary of what you think might be illegal – note that in the case of bird callers, audio is crucial
3. Do note what else can be helpful when giving details to police – a landmark, a description of a vehicle, the name of a road etc.
4. Call police on 119, asking to get in touch with the Environmental Protection Unit (EPU) which is closest to your area. Do take note of who is the police officer you are talking to and do provide them with a contact number so they can reach you. Explain clearly what kind of illegal trapping you are witnessing (a-d above)
5. Contact BirdLife Malta directly on 21347645 or 7925 5697 (outside office hours) so they may be able to guide you further on reporting the matter. You can also send photos, videos, maps or location by email to [email protected]
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