March 2012: BirdLife Malta has welcomed the European Commission's reaffirmation of its stance on trapping in Malta. This makes clear that Malta cannot justify a trapping derogation under the Birds Directive nor ensure strict control of trapping practices.
Despite this, Malta proceeded to announce the opening of a song thrush trapping season in autumn 2011. This specified the dates for the trapping season but failed to introduce bag limits or limits to the number of trappers as a means of control. It also failed to specify what additional enforcement measures would be enacted during the season.
More than half the sites were illegally targeting finches
In the absence of increased enforcement, land and aerial surveys by BirdLife Malta during the autumn season revealed widespread illegal trapping. Fifty three per cent of active trapping sites surveyed were illegally targeting finches, and a further 24 per cent were illegally targeting waders, mostly golden plover. Less than two per cent of active sites were actually targeting song thrush.
In August 2011, a Maltese government Policy Guidance Document on Hunting and Trapping specified scientific studies need to be prepared to aid the consideration of a derogation. Yet despite this, no studies on song thrush migration were undertaken in 2011.
BirdLife Malta reiterates its stance that a trapping derogation cannot be justified under the EU Birds Directive. In 2011, the song thrush trapping derogation was no less restrictive or selective than previous derogations that warranted Malta a letter of formal notice in June.
Failure to take action following the reasoned opinion by the EC will risk Malta facing the European Court of Justice.