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Malta Shoots Down The Law

Malta persistently breaking European law on bird hunting

Brussels, Belgium - BirdLife International and BirdLife Malta, have this week lodged a formal complaint with the EU Commission in respect of the failure by the Maltese Government to adequately implement the EU Birds Directive (79/409/EEC) in relation to the island’s rampant bird hunting and trapping. It is already well known that every year thousands of migrating birds are shot illegally in Malta, including species as Marsh Harrier, Honey Buzzard, Black-winged Stilts and the threatened Purple Heron. But to make things worse each year an estimated 100,000 Turtle Doves and other species with declining populations in Europe are shot in total conformity with national laws, mostly on their spring migration.BirdLife asked the EU Commissioner, Mr. Stavros Dimas, to investigate and take the appropriate steps to ensure that Malta, as a Member State, complies with the existing binding EU legislation. The complaint focuses on Malta’s failure to integrate and then implement the European Birds Directive’s provisions on hunting and trapping into national laws. Malta is breaching the Birds Directive because it allows hunting of Turtle Dove and Quail in spring: "Hunting birds during their return migration to the breeding grounds is explicitly forbidden by the Birds Directive," said Joseph Mangion, President of BirdLife Malta. "In addition, this law makes it nearly impossible to control the widespread illegal hunting of many other threatened birds during this time of the year." Malta claimed to apply a so-called 'Art. 9 derogation' here, but so far Art. 9 of the Birds Directive is not even transposed into national law (which constitutes another infringement), and even if it was, the conditions for such a derogation would not be fulfilled. Several other Maltese laws are not in line with the EU Birds Directive: For example Malta also allows the hunting at sea of twelve species of waterfowl during their spring migration, or trapping of Turtle Dove, Quail, Song Thrush and Golden Plover with nets.

When entering the EU, Malta had generously been granted a period of transition to phase out the trapping of finches, which is normally forbidden in all Member States, by 2008. However, the Maltese Government does not respect the conditions of this agreement, in particular regarding the timing of the trapping and the timetable for this phasing-out. "BirdLife Malta and BirdLife International are committed to ensure a safe future for birds in Europe, and have tried for many years to solve the problems in Malta through dialogue and cooperation with the Maltese Government," said Clairie Papazoglou, Head of BirdLife’s Brussels office. "However, these efforts have proven to be rather fruitless, so the time has come now for the European Commission to take its responsibility as Guardian of the EU law, and to ensure with quick and decisive legal action against Malta that next spring European birds can pass safely over the Maltese Islands, after their arduous migration from Africa. If the Commission doesn’t take decisive action against Malta on hunting it will set a dangerous precedent for other countries in the EU, and sign a death warrant for thousands of migratory birds," she added.

4th July 2014