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Malta Government announces limited autumn hunting season

Honey Buzzard (Photo: CABS / S. Agmon)The Malta Government announced yesterday the dates of the autumn birdhunting season. An official press release revealed that hunting on land in Malta will be allowed between 1 September and 31 January. From Mondays to Saturdays hunting can be carried out from two hours before dawn until two hours after sunset. On Sundays and public holidays hunting has to stop at 1300 hours.

The press release stated that in order to protect birds of prey, between 15 September and 30 September no hunting would be allowed after 1500 hours – the time when the migration of birds of prey is at its peak.

With regard to hunting at sea, this may take place between 1 October and 31 January. However, there are certain legal restrictions relating to where hunting can take place at sea. In the case of sea hunting the dates are the same as last year.

The Malta Government said the dates have been established on the basis of recommendations by the Ornis Committee, an advisory government body which also contains representatives of hunting groups and some environmental organisations.

The committee also recommended that a derogation be applied to allow the trapping of turtle doves, quail, song thrushes and golden plover. However, this was not accepted by the government because of the EU's Birds Directive. The government felt that the recommendation required further clarification and evaluation before it could be applied. This is one of the main stumbling blocks between the Malta Government and the EU. When Malta joined the EU, the Government continued to allow hunting of these species and was subsequently taken to the EU Court as a result. It seems that between the Malta Government and the EU there is no agreement on this issue and therefore for the first time trapping of turtle doves, quail, golden plover and song thrushes is not going to be allowed.

Max Farrugia, Chairman of International Animal Rescue Malta, said: "The restrictions on autumn hunting are extremely tight which is very good news for migrating birds. If the laws were respected by the hunters, the conditions for the birds this autumn would be better than ever before." Only time will tell whether this proves to be the case.