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Undisciplined hunters facing lifetime ban

Dramatic rise in reported shooting of protected birds

Police confiscated these four quails after a hunter had illegally shot all of them in one morning. Photo by Lars Soerink/www.vildaphoto.net

Police confiscated these four quails after a hunter had illegally shot all of them in one morning. Photo by Lars Soerink/www.vildaphoto.net

Hunters breaching regulations will face a life ban according to new tough penalties to be announced by the government in the coming week.

Hunters caught shooting at birds in the close season and those who poach protected species will be barred from practising their hobby for life, The Sunday Times has learnt.

The penalty – backdated to the spring season which has just ended – will be imposed upon conviction.

The crackdown comes at the end of the controversial spring season, which has once again incensed NGOs and bird-lovers.

A total of 43 hunting marshals had been recruited to bolster the enforcement of spring hunting regulations and assist the police Administrative Law Enforcement unit responsible for enforcing hunting legislation.

Enforcement is a crucial cog in the proper application of a spring hunting derogation, which the government has to justify with the European Commission.

The beefed-up enforcement did not appear to answer the demands of Birdlife Malta and the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS), which yesterday released initial results from their conservation camps covering this year’s spring hunting period.

The two organisations report­ed dramatic increase in the illegal shooting of protected birds.

Nearly 950 shots were reported outside hunting hours, 61 protected birds were shot at, and 52 protected birds sustained gunshot injuries in flight.

During the hunting season alone Birdlife Malta received 22 shot protected birds.

More protected birds were seen shot, and more shot protected birds were received by Birdlife alone than during the same periods of the past three years combined, when the hunting season was either closed or boycotted.

The organisations said they also recorded other offences such as the use of cage traps, shotguns capable of firing more than three rounds, and hunters not wearing the obligatory armband. Birdlife recorded offences in 89 per cent of locations visited.

This data is gathered by the camp participants – reports by local members and members of the public will be analysed at a later stage.

The planning authority recently said only 1,842 turtle doves and 366 quail were reported killed by around 5,600 hunters during this spring’s 15-day season.

The hunting lobby has blamed the low catch on a poor migration but Birdlife and CABS recorded a good migration in general.

Hunters were obliged to record their catches in the official carnet de chasse document and by sending a text message.

Birdlife executive director Paul Debono said: “The SMS system has been widely criticised – even by the hunters themselves.

“It is clear to us that once again self regulation by hunters has failed as shown by the low figures recorded by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority.

“How is the Commission to take these figures seriously?”

The two organisations will be presenting the European Commission with a joint report on the offences observed during the open hunting season in the coming weeks.

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