'Free-for-all as bird trappers act, trade with impunity'

Enforcement slow, at times absent, Birdlife says

Meadow Pipit caught and then released.

Meadow Pipit caught and then released.

The past finch trapping seasons was an unsupervised one which morphed into a "catch and trade" business, according to Birdlife Malta. 

Enforcement during the season which ended on December 31 was slow and at times absent, BLM said in a damning statement before an imminent European Court of Justice ruling on the disputed practice.

Evidence collected showed trappers had a field day over the last two and a half months with police inefficiency and their lack of response being the order of the day.

Moreover, despite several reports filed, no response has been received by the police in any of these cases and no outcome of any investigation supplied.

Investigations made on several Sunday mornings last November at the Floriana markets revealed at least five vendors illegally selling wild finches from their stalls. These markets are just metres away from the police headquarters.

All vendors - a proportion of which hail from Gozo pet shops who have previously faced prosecutions on the illegal trade of finches - were reported to the police. However, searches held 10 days later resulted in just two birds being seized for further inspection.

Requests filed with Wild Birds Regulation Unit over the nature of their investigations remain unanswered, while police sources admitted to not having the capabilities of distinguishing wild birds from captive ones, Birdlife said.

"The situation at the markets  has been such a free for all that we have witnessed not just the usual vendors we report year after year, but even trappers, who have had a good catch of finches during the past season, selling their catch directly at the market,” said BLM conservation manager Nicholas Barbara.

Birdlife CEO Mark Sultana added: "Enforcement authorities have this year more than ever showed a reluctance in prosecuting even when presented with hard evidence. This has been tantamount to a situation where trappers have been allowed to operate for the last season under no supervision."

The NGO is asking for the results on "enforcement" of the trapping season to be presented at the next Ornis committee meeting.

BirdLife Malta has just launched #STOPTRAPPINGNOW, a campaign aimed at raising more awareness about the negative impacts of trapping on birds and other wildlife, their habitats and the Maltese environment in general.

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