Watch: Bird trapping frenzy on Maltese coastline, activists say
Government 'actively preventing' police from taking action
Bird trappers have "literally paved the Maltese coastline" with hundreds of illegal clap nets despite a ban on trapping in spring, activists from the Committee Against Bird Slaughter have claimed.
In a statement, CABS said that allowing autumn trapping for finches had led to an increase in illegal trapping, and accused the government of "actively preventing" police from clamping down on trappers by making almost no resources available to them.
CABS activists said an aerial survey last week had counted a record 133 illegal nets in coastal areas, with at least 20 in the Dingli Cliffs area and others on the roof of Fort Ricasoli in Kalkara.
"This is a shocking number of nets, twice as many compared to last year. Opening the legal finch trapping season in autumn has definitely amplified the amount of illegal spring trapping," CABS wildlife crime officer Fiona Burrows said.
CABS volunteers reported nine trappers to the police after filming them since last week. Police took an average of 40 minutes to respond to reports, CABS said, and did not manage to make a single direct arrest.
"The majority of the trappers have accomplices who keep watch and inform them as soon as a police vehicle enters the area," Ms Burrows alleged.
Video footage published on YouTube shows balaclava-clad trappers scramble to remove birds and equipment from a coastal site.
CABS press officer Axel Hirschfeld noted said that he had received information that the Administrative Law Enforcement division only has a single patrol on duty.
"It is hard to believe that this is just a planning error. It seems likely that the government is actively preventing police action upon trappers by limiting police resources to nearly zero during peak finch migration," Mr Hirschfeld alleged.
The organisation said that it would be filing a complaint against Malta with the European Commission, adding that official talk about strict regulations were "smoke and mirrors."