Despite being only nine months into 2020, this year has been one of the worst for illegal hunting, local NGO BirdLife Malta said.
Since the start of the year, 139 protected birds were retrieved after being shot by hunters. A total of 618 birds were picked up by activists since 2013, 70% of which were found over the last four years.
“When the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) took over the enforcement of bird protection laws from the Environment & Resources Authority (ERA), enforcement deteriorated to being non-existent,” BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana said.
“To add insult to injury, last January Prime Minister Robert Abela moved WBRU – which is run by hunters and trappers – under the Minister of Gozo Clint Camilleri; a well-known pro-hunter and trapper.”
“Malta has never experienced a government so in favour of hunting and trapping.“
Last month, German NGO Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) exposed eight illegal bird trapping sites.
Finch trapping in Malta was declared illegal by the European Court of Justice back in 2018, following a declaration that Malta had failed to fulfil its obligations under the European Wild Birds Directive.
“CABS and BirdLife Malta are witnessing numerous illegalities, but the Environmental Protection Unit (EPU) officers are not,” BirdLife Malta Head of Conservation Nicholas Barbara said.
“Illegalities such as the indiscriminate use of bird callers, shooting at protected species, hunting after the 7pm curfew, hunting after the 1pm curfew on Sundays and public holidays are now a daily occurrence.”
BirdLife Malta went on to call on Prime Minister Robert Abela to boost the “heavily under-resourced” EPE police unit with immediate effect.