End the Spring Bird Slaughter in Malta

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Sponsor: The Rainforest Site

Tell the Commissioner for the Environment to stop Malta's flagrant disregard of the EU's Birds Directive.


There are more than 500 species of wild birds in Europe. Every spring millions of them make the voyage back to the continent after winters spent sunning themselves down south.

For these birds, the journey from Africa to Europe is arduous, to say the least, with wild weather, predators and exhaustion all meaning that a successful migration is nothing short of miraculous. Seemingly endless desert sands and open water crossings are particularly fraught. And then there are human threats1.

On their spring migration to Malta, thousands of birds are shot by hunters every year.

Around 340 bird species use the islands of Malta as stopovers on their long migrations between Europe and Africa every year. Turtle doves, quail, swifts, yellow-legged gulls, bitterns, kestrels and the rare Montagu's harrier head to Malta to breed, feed and rest2. The vast majority are protected by law, rare or in serious decline.

The Birds Directive is the European Union's oldest piece of nature legislation. It is designed to protect wild birds indigenous to the region, recognizing that the wild birds, including migratory birds, are part of Europe's shared natural heritage. Malta, however, misapplies an exemption from the Birds Directive which makes it the only European Union country that allows recreational spring hunting3.

This derogation was designed to protect public health and safety, but its misapplication results in the deaths thousands of vulnerable species such as quail and turtle dove which travel through Malta en route to their summer habitats yearly4.

Recently, BirdLife Malta teams documented two incidents where hunters shot down protected Turtle-doves, and the same day found a protected Common Cuckoo with gunshot injuries5.

BirdLife Malta said it will be documenting incidents of illegal hunting to submit a report to the European Commissioner for the Environment for further action5.

These vulnerable avian species are protected in other European nations, but inadequate protections in Malta during the spring hunt means they are often targets. Although the European Court of Justice ruled that Malta had repeatedly and illegally allowed spring hunting to take place, the European Commission (EC) is refusing to take action to stop it.

It's time to end Malta's abuse of the Birds Directive. Sign the petition calling on Malta's Commissioner for the Environment to enforce the European Court of Justice's decision to make all of Europe's skies safe for migrating birds.

More on this issue:

  1. Chris Owen, Responsible Travel, "Bird Hunting In Malta, The Annual Slaughter."
  2. Mark McCormick, One Green Planet (2015), "'If It Flies, It Dies': The Tradition of Bird Hunting in Malta and How You Can Help End the Brutality."
  3. European Parliament (16 December 2020), "Breach of the Birds Directive in Malta."
  4. European Federation for Hunting and Conservation, "Hunting in Malta."
  5. The Shift, "Start of Turtle-dove migration leads to illegal hunting of protected species in spring."
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The Petition:

Dear Commissioner for the Environment of Malta,

I am writing you to ask that you stop Malta's misapplication of a derogation which allows their citizens to shoot migratory birds each spring. The European Court of Justice ruled that Malta had repeatedly and illegally allowed spring hunting to take place. Now, Europe's migratory birds need your support to ensure the spring hunts in Malta end.

The Birds Directive derogation which allows Maltese hunters to hunt migrating birds was designed to protect public health and safety. The misapplication of the exemption every year results in the deaths thousands of members of vulnerable species such as quail and turtle dove which travel through Malta en route to their summer habitats. These vulnerable species are protected in other European nations, but inadequate protections in Malta during the spring hunt means they are often targets.

Malta is now the only European Union country that allows recreational spring hunting. It's time to make preservation and conservation the priority in the entire European Union. There can be no exceptions. Not for Malta, or any other EU member. Please stand by the European Court of Justice's decision and stop the spring hunts.

Sincerely

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