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EU says Malta has worst hunting abuse record

By Herman Grech in the Times of Malta ? Wednesday December 8th 2004

The European Commission will be sending an inspection team to Malta in March amid claims that the island is the worst per capita abuser of hunting regulations in the EU. The Commission`s DG Environment has been inundated by letters of complaints from Maltese residents, tourists, MEPs and NGOs and it was high time for the EU to carry out a detailed inspection of the hunting situation in Malta, Anne Teller, administrator on hunting issues at DG Environment, told The Times. The six-man delegation will be made up of individuals from the DG Environment`s Nature and Biodiversity Unit and the Legal Unit.

The team was originally meant to visit Malta by the end of this year but decided to postpone its trip to March to coincide with a period notorious for illegal hunting. The delegation would be carrying out a series of inspections at various sites and will hold meetings with the police, government officials, NGOs and the hunters themselves.Following the visit to Malta, the DG Environment will then be mapping out a series of specific actions that need to be taken, failing which, the EU would embark on a strict procedure for faulting an obligation under Malta`s Accession Treaty. The EU could initiate what is known as Article 226 Procedure with the Courts of Justice which could, in the worst case scenario, lead to fines of ?200,000 a day for non-compliance. Ms Teller said a total of 95 per cent of complaint letters from Malta sent to the DG Environment`s Unit for Nature and Biodiversity revolve around hunting.

We receive letters about hunting in Malta every week, ranging from the fact that birds are being trapped and that migratory birds are being shot down during the close season, she said.In the case of bird trapping, a transition period was granted to Malta in the Accession Treaty to phase out trapping by December, 2008. The DG Environment has asked the Maltese authorities for clarification about several instances of protected birds being shot in the past few months. Birds of prey, including short-toed eagles, flamingos and herons were shot down at the height of the hunting season in September and October.

She said the Commission was fully aware that Malta was in a transition period and that changes in behaviour will take some time. But we cannot expect Malta to continue delaying procedures to curb illegal hunting. Malta is behind schedule and that`s why we`re sending an inspection team there, she said.

Ms Teller said that several MEPs, especially British, Germans and Italians, have urged the EU to scrutinise Malta`s hunting situation closely. France, Italy, Spain, Malta and Cyprus were the biggest offenders in the EU where bird hunting was concerned, Ms Teller said, though Malta was now the worst in terms of per capita flouting of hunting regulations. Asked how the EU could verify that all the hunting claims were genuine, Ms Teller replied: We have photographs, we have records, we have several letters - and there are surrounding countries which are also keeping a close eye on the migratory birds going over Malta.

4th July 2014