Youth for the Environment (Y4TE) said that hunters should not be allowed to hunt more quail and turtledoves in spring, no matter what the results of Ecoserv’s study turn out to be.
“Should the study show that ‘not enough’ quail and turtledoves fly over Malta in autumn, we do not see why hunters should therefore be allowed to hunt for more of them in spring,” Y4TE’s President Julia Farrugia said. “Perhaps if less quail and turtledoves were to be hunted there would be a boost in their population which would eventually result in more flying over in autumn.”
She said this in the wake of revelations made by newspaper MaltaToday that Ecoserv, a private company, is being paid €116,230 by the government to see how many quail and turtledoves fly over the Maltese Islands between 1 September and 31 October. If the results of this study show that only a few turtledoves and quail fly over Malta in autumn, the government and hunter’s federation FKNK will present a case to the European Commission to allow them to hunt more of these two bird species in spring.
“Allowing for more hunting of the birds in spring would be a step in the wrong direction and there should be no logical reason as to why FKNK would have a case to present,” Farrugia said.
In 2009, the Nationalist government introduced a hunting curfew of 3pm between 15 and 30 September, a period when protected birds of prey fly low over Malta. BirdLife Malta wanted to extend the curfew date till 7 October while FKNK wanted to push the curfew back to 7pm. In 2013, the new Labour government decided to extend the curfew till 7 October and push it back till 7pm. BirdLife consider this move as equivalent to removing the curfew entirely.
“Any hunting after 3pm is likely to be of protected birds,” BirdLife’s conservation manager Nicholas Barbara told MaltaToday. “Besides, by 7pm it will be too dark to ensure that the curfew is being respected.”
“The Government’s lack of a position on the issue in an attempt to please both parties has resulted in a situation where the likelihood of protected birds of prey being shot down has increased,” Farrugia said.
The autumn hunting season began. Two dead little egrets have already been found in Gozo by the Malta Armed Forces.
“This is tragic news since it shows that even though the season has only just opened, hunters are already targeting birds indiscriminate of whether they are protected,” Farrugia said. “Moreover, if hunters have already started to shoot at birds with such little care at the start at the season one wonders what the kill count will be by the end of the season.”
“The detrimental effect this will have on the bird population cannot go ignored and unless the authorities employ harsher measures Malta will end up being void of all species of bird.”
A lot has been made of the Government’s proposal to postpone next year’s local council elections. It has been suggested that this decision is simply a cover for the Government to hold the spring hunting referendum separately from the local council elections. The implication is that, while the majority of Maltese are in favour of banning spring hunting, not enough of them care that much to leave their houses specifically to vote that way. On the other hand, hunters will all go out to vote against this ban as it is something that concerns them directly.
“Much in the same way that there was a strong voter turn-out for the divorce referendum, if people are made to feel strongly about banning spring bird hunting, then there should be no such problem,” Farrugia said. “The problem with postponing local council elections lies in the fact that the same councillors will be in power for a longer period than they are meant to.”