Number of licensed trappers decreasing
Communication between a spokesperson for Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik and BirdLife Malta (BLM) clarifies that bird trapping using nets is “prohibited under the Birds Directive”.
Quoting spokesperson Joseph Hennon, BLM executive director Paul Debono said: “Several criteria need to be met for any derogation on the Birds Directive to be considered justified, and the Commission does not feel that Malta’s derogation permitting the trapping of these four species (turtle dove, quail, golden plover, and song thrush) meets these criteria”.
As a result Malta has a pending infringement case concerning autumn bird trapping and which was opened in June.
Details of such communication were given by BirdLife Malta at a news conference yesterday morning. During the event, held in Floriana, the NGO also presented its conclusions regarding the EU LIFE+ Project on Bird Migration and Trapping and launched a final project report on trapping.
The project was developed by BirdLife Malta with a number of partners aiming to facilitate the implementation of the Birds Directive with respect to trapping. It was 50% funded under the EU LIFE financial instrument of the European Commission.
Since its inception in January 2009 the project has carried out various information dissemination activities, including an ambitious environmental outreach programme meeting 411 trappers in individual face-to-face meetings. The aim of these meetings was to create dialogue between trappers and conservationists.
“We understand, from our meetings, that many trappers have accepted the end of trapping and have moved on, not renewing their licence,” said project manager Geoffrey Saliba. “Several former trappers have also expressed interest in alternative activities, mainly bird breeding and participating in bird shows, which are both legal and respect the environment when carried out using captive bred birds.”
Nonetheless, some trappers also expressed interest in wildlife photography and scientific bird study. Mr Saliba pointed out that a bird breeding association, another organising cage bird competitions and a number of photographic associations are well established in Malta and offer great expertise to enthusiasts. BLM is also very interested in helping interested persons gain more scientific knowledge.
He went on to give police figures showing that only 2,896 of the original 4,616 trappers licensed in 2008 renewed their licence in 2010. Until the past few days, the number had further decreased to 2,643 representing a 42% drop in the number of licensed trappers.
The project also carried out ground and air based surveys of trapping sites in Malta and Gozo throughout 2009 and 2010, surveying a total of 4,787 trapping sites.
Of the trapping sites surveyed last year, 25% were active or maintained, and over 95% of these were illegally targeting finches.
As part of the project, a report presenting details of all the surveyed sites, including GPS locations, was compiled. This report has been passed on to the police to assist with enforcement action where applicable. A similar report will shortly be passed onto the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (Mepa).
Although the government has respected Malta’s EU Accession Treaty Agreement by not opening finch trapping after 2008, when the phasing out period agreed upon with the EU expired, Malta has permitted the autumn trapping of a further four species of bird.
A trapping season for turtle dove, quail, golden plover and song thrush was not opened this year.
The project’s final report titled ‘A step forward – Conservation on a migratory stop-over’, details the conservation and legal implications of trapping, a brief history of trapping, and the project conclusions. It is available for download on the BLM website.
As for the way forward, BLM intends to continue its outreach programme, hold more meetings with trappers while disseminating information.
Further monitoring of trapping sites will take place so as to update the police, Mepa and the Commission where possible.
BLM has also held preliminary meetings with the Malta Cage Bird Association because trappers are mostly interested in the seven species of finches; all of which are bred locally in captivity.
Source: The Malta Independent Online