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115,000 RSPB supporters sign petition condemning

Malta's bird shooting and trapping shame

It is time the Maltese government faced up to its illegal bird hunting and trapping shame and honour its bird protection commitments says a 115,000-strong petition from RSPB supporters which was delivered to the Maltese prime minister's doorstep earlier today [Monday 29 January] by the RSPB and BirdLife Malta. The Maltese prime minister has refused three previous invitations by the RSPB and BirdLife Malta to accept the petition personally. The handing in of the petition to the Maltese government coincides with an analysis by BirdLife Malta showing that birds from 38 countries, including the UK, have been shot or trapped across the Maltese Islands.

The petition, which had to be left on the Prime Minister's doorstep, calls for Dr. Lawrence Gonzi and his government to respect the EU bird protection laws, make sure those laws are enforced and stop spring hunting in Malta.

During a press conference, in Malta, Alistair Gammell, Director of International Operations at RSPB, explained the Prime Minister had refused three written requests to meet, leaving no option for the organisations to deliver their message personally and discuss the annual carnage. Alistair Gammell expressed his surprise at the Prime Minister’s persistent refusal considering his willingness to meet the hunters to discuss their priorities. He said: Lying midway between Europe and Africa, Malta is a key staging post for birds migrating between the two continents in spring and autumn.

Joseph Mangion, BirdLife Malta’s President, said:“Fourteen bird species have been recorded in Malta that had been ringed in various parts of the UK. In many of these cases, the birds were found because they had either been shot or trapped – thus highlighting the plight of migratory birds from all over Europe. None of these 14 species are on the list for permitted hunting in Malta, and only two of the species can be lawfully trapped until a transition period expires in 2008 when trapping must end completely.”

Alistair Gammell added: “Spring hunting is extremely damaging, killing birds just days before their nesting will begin in the UK and across Europe. It cannot be tolerated by anyone who cares about nature, and it is a matter of continual concern to many of our million members.”Malta is widely regarded as the worst offender against the EU Birds Directive of all the European Union’s 27 member countries. While changes in Maltese hunting legislation were a step in the right direction, the Maltese government has continued to allow spring hunting of turtle dove and quail and the spring trapping of finches – both activities in clear breach of European law – since it joined the EU in 2004. BirdLife International’s 2005 assessment of bird species in decline lists illegal hunting as the major contributor to the decline of one-third of the 129 species listed.

The European Commission opened infringement procedure against Malta in June 2006. Despite pressure from the EU and conservation organisations in Malta and Europe the Maltese government has recently challenged the Commission at a meeting in Brussels and suggested that they would allow spring hunting again in 2007.

“Our government knows that hunting in spring is illegal under the EU law. We are asking the government yet again to outlaw illegal spring hunting practice once and for all. Our elected representatives should do that for the majority of the Maltese public who are overwhelmingly against hunting,” concluded Joseph Mangion.

A study conducted by BirdLife Malta's conservation manager, Dr. Andre Raine, has looked at those birds which have either been ringed elsewhere and recovered in Malta or those birds ringed in Malta and recovered elsewhere. Although the chances of ringed birds being recovered are infinitesimal, the analysis reveals a catalogue of shame with UK-ringed birds, including cuckoo, goldfinch, spotted redshank, gannet, great skua, short-eared owl recorded in the island's grisly trapping and hunting practices.

4th July 2014