Malta to remove some of the little protection that birds have14/08/2013 08:51:37 Introducing... The Wild Birds Deregulation Unit
13th August 2013 - BirdLife Malta has reacted to the news that the government is going to push back the autumn hunting afternoon curfew to 7pm by describing the team that has made this decision as Malta's very own "Birds Deregulation Unit".
BirdLife Malta Executive Director Steve Micklewright said, "The media revealed that the government's new Wild Birds Regulation Unit was being staffed by hunting sympathisers last week. This decision clearly shows what happens when you put hunters in charge of bird conservation."
Licence for the illegal killing of protected birds
Describing the decision as a "licence for the illegal killing of protected birds", Mr Micklewright concluded that, "This decision clearly shows that bird conservation on Malta is not best served by the new Wild Birds Regulation Unit under the Parliamentary Secretary for Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights."
BirdLife Malta has sent an urgent letter to the Prime Minister asking for his direct intervention. Mr Micklewright added, "In our letter to the Prime Minister we call for bird conservation issues to be dealt with by the Minister for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change, the decision to remove the curfew only emphasises that these issues are in the wrong hands."
The decision flies in the face of careful evidence placed before the Ornis Committee in July 2013. BirdLife Malta Conservation Manager Nicholas Barbara said, "We provided clear evidence to the Ornis Committee that when the 3pm curfew was not in place during the first week of October when bird of prey migration is still on, we have witnessed many more incidents of shooting at protected species in the afternoons compared to when the curfew was still in place in September. This clearly shows that the 3pm curfew was effective."
Commenting on the decision to push back the curfew to 7pm, Mr Barbara described this decision as, "completely useless" adding that, "Having the curfew at 7pm is practically equivalent to removing it. By 7pm most birds of prey would have roosted already, after having flown at low altitude within shooting range in search of a roosting site. It is the hours before dark that are the most critical and not after sunset."
The proposal for a 7pm curfew extended by one week was made to the Ornis Committee by the Acting Head of the Wild Birds Regulation Unit, Sergei Golovkin who described it as, "An intermediary measure of a give and take situation." Nicholas Barbara added, "When he was challenged by BirdLife about the logical sense of a curfew push back, no concrete answer was given."
Hunters lobbied hard for the complete removal of the curfew arguing that law-abiding hunters were being penalised at the expense of the few illegal killers. Commenting on this position Mr Micklewright said, "The target species for law-abiding hunters are turtle dove and quail. Both turtle dove and quail tend to migrate at night and they are mostly hunted during the early hours of the morning. Pushing back the curfew will therefore make no difference to most law-abiding hunters."