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Good news for birds in Malta in 2009

Confiscated Golden PloverThe Govenment in Malta has said that it has no plans to allow a bird trapping season in 2009. A spokesman refused to confirm whether this would be a permanent ban but a senior government official said unofficially that the government didn't intend to allow trapping in future.

The Administrative Law Enforcement (ALE) wildlife police were out in the countryside on the first days of the New Year and during the raids they confiscated two illegally caught golden plovers. The trapper will be prosecuted during the coming weeks. The birds are being cared for by International Animal Rescue Malta.

Max Farrugia of International Animal Rescue in Malta said the birds were not injured at all apart from some blood on their beaks which was caused by the restricted space in the cages. The birds will be released as soon as they are fit.

A spokesman for the European Commission when contacted from Malta said the EU understands that the Maltese authorities have concluded that no further wild specimens may be captured which would mean an immediate end to trapping, something which is widely expected not only in Malta but by bird conservationists all over Europe. In fact, the Commission said it is satisfied that Malta stuck to its pre-accession which gave the country a special concession to continue trapping for some years, despite the fact that the practice is banned in the rest of the EU.

However the hunters' and trappers' federation last week has stated that it plans to keep lobbying for both trapping and spring hunting in the coming months.

The hunters' federation said it had prepared a dossier offering satisfactory solutions on the future of trapping. They have asked for a meeting with both the Prime Minister and the Labour Party leader in opposition.

Illegally caught Golden Plovers

Political observers in Malta are of the opinion that the hunters and trappers will once more try to raise the issue as a national matter in the run up to the elections to the European Parliament in June. The election campaigns have already started and the hunters' federation may put forward candidates for the elections. During the last elections the President of the Hunters and Trappers Federation was a candidate for the EU elections but he got fewer than 2000 votes.

Max Farrugia from International Animal Rescue in Malta stated that the concession Malta was given during the dealings of the pre-accession to the EU covered the trapping of seven species of birds until the end of the year. According to a pretext used by the Maltese authorities, the concession was needed to allow more time to carry out studies to "ensure sufficient genetic diversity of the captive species". The arrangement consisted of a number of conditions, including the establishment of the Ornis Committee, the registration of all trapping sites, the commissioning of a number of studies and the introduction of a captive breeding project.

A Commission spokesman said that Brussels is satisfied with the progress achieved by Malta in this area and is assured that all the conditions tied to the transitional period on trapping have now been met. "The Commission believes that the conditions referred to in the Accession Treaty in relation to the temporary derogation to permit the trapping of seven species of birds have been met," the spokesman said.

One of the initiatives referred to by the Commission was the captive bird breeding project which the government set up at the Gammieri Experimental farm. As well as breeding, birds are ringed and data is recorded on every individual specimen. This project is being monitored and reports on the findings of the project were submitted on a regular basis to the European Commission since 2006.

Although it is being stated that the trapping season will not open this spring, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) and International Rescue in Malta will be organising a bird guard camp in Malta during the spring to monitor whether the ban on trapping is being observed. Bird guards from various European countries have already committed to coming over to monitor the situation.