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A new dawn for Malta?

…public anti-trapping campaign

Situated on the central European-African flyway the Maltese Islands should be a haven for migrating birds. Unfortunately this is not the case. Internationally, Malta has a deserved reputation for bird persecution as trapping and illegal hunting are widespread. Since accession to the European Union (EU), conditions have improved on the islands, with spring hunting and trapping stopped last year. This year, if Accession Treaty negotiations are honoured, an even bigger step forward will be taken, with the banning of trapping.

The Birds Directive forbids trapping in EU member states. During Accession Treaty negotiations prior to joining the EU in 2004, Malta negotiated a five year phasing out period for the practise of trapping. This period expired at the end of 2008, and according to these agreements, 2009 will be the first year that trapping should be banned in Malta.Trappers, using live decoy birds and clap nets, target seven species of finch, European Turtle-dove Streptopelia turtur, Song Thrush Turdus philomelos and Eurasian Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria. Common Quail Coturnix coturnix are also caught using horizontal nets and live decoy birds. There are approximately 4500 registered trappers, and according to the latest survey by the Malta Environment Planning Authority run in 2004, there are over 7,000 trapping sites in the Maltese Islands. These trapping sites are densely packed along the coast and are even visible from the air. It is not just migrating birds but biodiversity in general that has suffered at the hands of Maltese trappers. To make space for clap nets, vegetation on these sites is burnt or killed off with toxic herbicides, resulting in a loss of valuable habitat for many species of flora and fauna. Furthermore, nets are often left lying un-attended on the ground throughout the closed season, causing many birds and animals to become entangled in the fine mesh and die a slow death from exposure or starvation.“The ban would be an excellent first step, through which the Maltese will be better able to enjoy their countryside” said Tolga Temuge, BirdLife Malta’s (BirdLife in Malta) Executive Director. “For the ban to be honoured it is vital to encourage respect and admiration for nature amongst both the public and trappers. To this end BirdLife Malta will be launching a Life+ funded campaign, aimed at informing the Maltese public and trappers of the benefits to be had once trapping ceases completely”.

With trapping a thing of the past, not only will migratory birds be safer passing over the islands, but Malta can look forward to having its own breeding populations of song birds – birds which at present are absent due to this widespread and damaging activity.

4th July 2014