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Don’t consult EU over hunting limit – FKNK

‘PN dealt blow to our hobby’

A future Labour government should increase the spring hunting bird limit without consulting Brussels, the hunters’ federation claimed yesterday.

The hunters’ agreement with PL is appalling
- Birdlife

The federation said it disagreed with the “servile” attitude of the Nationalist government of consulting the EU on the amount of hunted birds during spring.

The statement was made a day after the Labour Party unveiled an agreement with the hunters at the end of two-year discussions, which Birdlife yesterday slammed as “appalling”.

Among the conclusions, both parties agreed that a Labour government will “correctly implement a derogation” on spring hunting which respects the decision of the European Court of Justice on spring hunting.

Asked whether the hunters’ wish for a Labour government to keep the EU out of the loop on the national bag limit could be a recipe for further legal action, FKNK general secretary Lino Farrugia said if the EU issued any infringements “we will see how to tackle them later”.

In 2009, the court had found Malta in breach of the Birds Directive but allowed a small window of opportunity for a “limited” and “restricted” season due to the lack of birds available to be hunted in autumn, based on data given.

Mr Farrugia told The Times the agreement’s wording might look vague but Labour “is disposed to discuss increasing the bag limit”.

Asked how many birds the hunters were basing their numbers on, he said that, according to their calculations, the FKNK would be prepared to discuss in the parameters of 125,000 quails and 79,000 turtle doves, a tenfold increase on the current quotas allowed by the European Commission.

“We are not saying we will have these numbers but at least Labour is predisposed to consider this. We offered the same to the Government but the PN didn’t even want to meet us,” he said.

Mr Farrugia admitted Labour had not actually agreed on the new bag limit, and stressed nothing might actually change on the bird numbers.

But he added there were specific areas where the PL committed to deliver, including the removal of the €50 fee for a special licence to hunt in spring, the removal of time restrictions on when to hunt during the open season and the removal of an identification band to be worn by hunters during the practice of their pastime.

Requesting questions to be sent by e-mail, the PL said “the correct applicability of the derogation will be in accordance to the ECJ judgment. The application of the said derogation will be within the ambit of the existing framework.”

Mark Mifsud Bonnici from the Kaċċaturi San Ubertu said the agreement with Labour gives hope to hunters.

“We were not involved directly in this agreement but we endorse it completely. The PN has dealt a blow to our hobby – which means everything for us – and Labour will give it back to us,” he said.

Spring hunting is currently outlawed in the EU and through the ECJ decision only Malta was given the possibility of a limited and restricted season for hunting on turtle dove and quail.

A few other countries also apply limited derogations in spring but on different species and much fewer in numbers.

Last year, following consultations with Brussels, the season was opened between April 14 and 30 subject to strict rules, including a national bag of 11,000 turtle doves and 5,000 quails. Hunters were only allowed to catch two birds a day and not more than four birds during the whole season.

FKNK also disagrees with the daily and season limits and said that Labour will remove them.

During a visit to Malta in September, EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik made it clear that hunters should not raise their hopes for better conditions on their spring hunting season as the quotas set by the Government had already reached their “upper limit”.

In a statement yesterday, Birdlife said that, while the PL/hunters’ agreement states that any changes will be made “in conformity” with the European framework, and commits to law enforcement, the six-point agreement contains commitments that appear to go against this.

“While committing to increasing enforcement is welcome, the detail of the agreement does not explicitly state how this will happen.

“We would at the very least have expected PL to force a commitment from FKNK to expel members who are convicted of illegal bird hunting and for their hunting licences to be revoked forever, but there is no such commitment.

“We will of course push for this if the PL is elected to government.”

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