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Malta hunting committee ignoring science, conservation and the EU

21/03/2012 15:44:22

Ornis - Maltese government's hunting and trapping committee 

Ornis is the government-appointed committee for the regulation of hunting and trapping of birds in Malta, with a specific mandate to ensure the protection of Malta’s bird populations.

BirdLife Malta calls for resignation of hunting regulatory committee chairman

March 2012. Malta - In a letter sent to the chairman of the Malta Ornis Committee, BirdLife Malta called for the resignation of Mr. Louis Cilia, following his surprise submission of a proposal for the opening of an extended spring hunting as well as a trapping season.

Only two days before today's scheduled meeting of the Ornis committee, Mr. Cilia sent his recommendations to the committee members, giving scant time for consideration of the document.

Lack of basic realization of the facts and understanding of conservation science
In its immediate reaction to Mr. Cilia's recommendations BirdLife Malta wrote, "You, as the Ornis Chairman, in your current capacity to draft recommendations for a spring hunting and trapping derogation in 2012, lack a basic realization of the facts and understanding of conservation science and EU legislation concerning the conservation of wild birds."

In his proposal Mr. Cilia recommends the opening of a spring hunting season, although to this date the Carnet De Chasse figures for last autumn have not yet been published. Under the government's legal notice 113 of 2011, which sets out the general framework for spring hunting, the opening of a spring hunting season for Turtle Dove and Quail is dependent on the number of birds of these species killed during the preceding autumn season.

Mr. Cilia, prior to the Carnet de Chasse numbers from autumn 2011 being made available, is also recommending the spring quota be set at the maximum allowable number for both species and the extension of the season by three days compared to 2011. In addition he proposes the complete removal of any daily bag limits previously established as a strict supervision condition.

Sometimes it seems that Maltese hunters will shoot anything that moves.

Sometimes it seems that Maltese hunters will shoot anything that moves.

Disregarding EU Commissioner for Environment
These recommendations completely disregard the reaction by EU Commissioner for Environment Janez Poto─Źnik, who, during his visit in Malta in July 2011, stated that there was no room for relaxing the restrictions imposed on the spring hunting season of 2011.

Moreover, only a few weeks after Malta received yet another legal warning from the EC about its autumn trapping derogation, the ORNIS chairman, without any scientific or legal justification, is recommending an additional derogation for the spring trapping of Turtle Dove and Quail, which has been banned since 2008. Such a recommendation is very likely to land Malta at the European Court of Justice.

Mr. Cilia also goes as far as claiming that "the hunting areas in Malta and Gozo, are very restricted", ignoring the fact that hunting in Malta is permitted in almost all of Malta's EU protected Natura 2000 sites, including cliffs and rocky shores which are important breeding grounds for Malta's seabirds, and also in agricultural land.

He seems to be far more concerned about the ‘limited area' in which people are free to roam around with shotguns than the availability of our shared countryside for the enjoyment and appreciation of the vast majority of Maltese citizens and tourists.

Mr. Cilia also assumes that in its current capacity, the ALE unit within the Malta Police Force has enough human and material resources in order to enforce a hunting derogation, and that their actions should be entirely dedicated to preventive measures. This shows a clear lack of realization and understanding of the current state of enforcement on illegal hunting and trapping matters in Malta.

In his biased recommendations, Mr. Cilia, without providing any evidence, also assumes that the hunting community in Malta embodies self-regulation.

In its letter to Mr. Cilia, BirdLife Malta concludes: "In accordance with such, it would be opportune that you resign from your post, prior to further recommendations being made at Ornis Committee level, which recommendations shall risk Malta being taken to the European Court of Justice, as well as cause further risks to the conservation of European avifauna. We strongly believe that the Ornis Chairman position should be filled by someone who has a strong understanding of conservation science and EU legislation and who can distance himself from the political agenda surrounding the issue."

In view of the recommendations put forward by the Ornis Chairman, BirdLife Malta will not be attending today's Ornis Committee meeting, which will be discussing the recommendation for a spring hunting and trapping season.

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