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Rampant use of illegal electronic callers – Birdlife

A trapped Golden Plover in a cage. Photo: Steven Williams

A trapped Golden Plover in a cage. Photo: Steven Williams

Birdlife Malta recently reiterated the call made last week by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) to close the trapping season for Golden Plover, after witnessing an exceptional migration of the species over the Maltese islands during the past weeks with widespread trapping activity being undertaken in Malta and Gozo, often at night, and with the illegal use of electronic callers.

A flock of Golden Plovers over the airport on November 11, 2016. Photo: Ray GaleaA flock of Golden Plovers over the airport on November 11, 2016. Photo: Ray Galea

Birdlife Malta released video evidence showing that the use of illegal electronic callers in various locations in the countryside is rampant and unregulated.

During November and December, the NGO received from members of the public on a daily basis reports of the use of electronic callers for Golden Plover during both day and night, with little or no police action taken to control them.

Questions made to the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) during a recent Ornis Committee meeting revealed that although 30 to 35 enforcement officers were reportedly present in the field during the trapping season, only 11 fines for the use of electronic callers were issued during the past four months of hunting and trapping. This, Birdlife Malta said, was a meagre amount considering that during this period over 10,000 hunters and 4,000 trappers were active in Malta’s countryside.

These devices are very effective at attracting these birds to a trapping site. This goes against the spirit of strict supervision demanded by this derogation which should regulate each trapper to trap up to six birds, after which trapping should be halted

In 2013, the use of electronic callers was decriminalised as a result of amendments proposed by the WBRU to the Conservation of Wild Birds Regulations, so that instead of being taken to court anyone caught using them only faced the prospect of a €250 fine. Although this was purportly done with the aim of making enforcement more effective, it seems it is leading to precisely the opposite effect, the NGO said.

“It has been common practice throughout the trapping season to have these callers automatically set on in the countryside at various trapping locations, and being switched off at the slightest presence of police or members of the public who would be reporting the matter to the authorities,” Birdlife Malta said.

A Golden Plover trapping site complex at Delimara. Although being subject to enforcement action for the use of electronic lures and other illegalities, the site was still active in 2016. Photo: BirdLife MaltaA Golden Plover trapping site complex at Delimara. Although being subject to enforcement action for the use of electronic lures and other illegalities, the site was still active in 2016. Photo: BirdLife Malta

During the said Ornis Committee meeting, the WBRU said that the quota of 700 Golden Plovers allocated for this year’s trapping season has not yet been reached, despite birdwatchers having witnessed one of the most exceptionally good years for migration of this species. “While the use of electronic callers is by far unregulated, these devices are very effective at attracting these birds to a trapping site, and have become part and parcel of our rural countryside,” commented Birdlife Malta conservation manager Nicholas Barbara. “This goes against the spirit of strict supervision demanded by this derogation which should regulate each trapper to trap up to six birds, after which trapping should be halted.”

Birdlife Malta appealed to the members of the public to keep reporting illegalities they witness by calling 119.

The use and locations of electronic callers should be indicated via GPS locations and also reported immediately by e-mailing info@birdlifemalta.org.

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