How entirely predictable that allowing Song Thrush trapping (illegal under EU law) would result in Malta’s trappers (a form of humanity that according to Malta’s hunting lobby the FKNK suffers depression if they’re not allowed to trap wild birds) targetting anything that flies. How predictable, and how hard will Malta’s government hit the errant citizens breaking the conditions of the thrush trapping season they themselves introduced at the behest of those same trappers? My guess is that will be more of a slap on the back than the crackdown these people really deserve to feel….
Press-release from BirdLife Malta, 29th November 2011:
Four BirdLife teams deployed this Saturday visited 40 active trapping sites in a variety of locations across Malta and Gozo. Of these, 24 were illegally targeting finches and another 14 sites were targeting Golden Plover through the use of exceptionally large nets, artificial ponds, decoys and illegal tape lures. This is despite there being no open season for Golden Plover this year. It was not possible to determine the target species of 1 other site. Despite the Song Thrush currently being a legal species to trap, only 1 of the active trapping sites was targeting this species.
Saturday’s surveillance follows BirdLife receiving numerous reports of illegal activity throughout Malta and Gozo within the last few weeks. Following BirdLife reports, 5 individuals were apprehended by police and video evidence will be submitted by BirdLife to assist police in their investigations.
Two illegal finch trappers at Benghisa Fort on Saturday had been reported to the police by BirdLife only a month before, which resulted in their equipment being confiscated. Despite this, they had continued illegal finch trapping activities. These two individuals were seen on Saturday, disguising themselves with a balaclava and picnic blanket as they collected their equipment and left the sites before the ALE arrived.
BirdLife teams have also witnessed several incidents where Song Thrush cages have been used to disguise illegal trapping activities, sometimes just before police arrive on the scene. Song Thrush nets have also been used at a site in Zurrieq, but the trapper was targeting finches using live decoys. At Qala, a trapper was seen replacing Golden Plover decoys with live Song Thrush cages when he realised a BirdLife team was present.
“Trappers are clearly taking advantage of the open Song Thrush trapping season to illegally target other species. With only one ALE vehicle usually available on Malta and none on Gozo, it is impossible for the unit to address such widespread and high numbers of illegal trapping sites.” said Nicholas Barbara, BirdLife Malta Conservation Officer. Malta is already facing infringement proceedings by the European Commission for allowing trapping since joining the EU, as the Commission feels that Malta’s trapping does not meet the conditions required under EU law.
Yet the government this year still opened a Song Thrush trapping season under identical conditions to previous years – conditions which the Commission is contesting, including the requirement of strict enforcement.
“Surveillance of thousands of trapping sites in 2009 and 2010 showed that over 95% of those active were illegally targeting finches(1). The illegalities are ongoing and despite the Commission’s infringement proceedings not enough is being done to stop them, risking yet another court case at the European Court of Justice.” concluded Paul Debono, BirdLife Malta Executive Director.