Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spring hunting

This year’s spring hunting season is nearly over and never too soon because it should have never been opened in the first place. The shooting of turtle doves and quails in spring does not make sense.

Hunters have been complaining for years that the number of migrating game birds has decreased. Older hunters talk nostalgically about the days many years ago when large numbers of turtle doves migrated over the Maltese islands. Hunters had been catching birds in spring for centuries and the birds kept coming every spring but those days are over. 

The number of turtle doves migrating over the Maltese islands started to decrease decades ago. 

The warnings have been there for all to see but the hunters still refuse to read the signs. When the turtle doves did not arrive they blamed the weather - next year will be better - but it was not. Then they blamed the oil refineries in North Africa which they said were preventing the birds from migrating. 

When Maltese hunters started to go on hunting trips to Egypt they realised that there they could still find a lot of turtle doves there so they concluded that the turtle doves had changed routes but they never blamed themselves and they still don’t.

The days when turtle doves migrated in large numbers are over because as the Maltese say ‘Tieħu bla ma trodd is-swar tħott’ which in English can be roughly translated as if you take away without putting back, even the fortifications are dismantled.

To make matters worse many hunters are not adhering to the conditions which they are supposed to follow. Birds of prey and other protected birds are still being shot. 

The Prime Minister said that no law breaking will be tolerated and the season will be closed if laws are broken. But, how many protected birds have to be killed before he can say that enough is enough? 

BirdLife which is organising another spring camp to monitor bird hunting has already stated that it has recorded hundreds of cases of law breaking. And how is the government going to justify all this with the European Commission? Spring hunting does not make sense and should not be allowed. The Maltese government should have made a bold decision in favour of nature and the environment and brought Malta in line with the rest of Europe.

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