Malta Hunters Win Vote, Spring Bird Hunting Stays

Spring bird hunting in Malta, a Mediterranean island south of Italy, will continue after hunters won a vote allowing them to keep hunting migratory flocks. This type of bird hunting for quail and turtle doves is not allowed anywhere else hunters can travel in the European Union.

The hunters are allowed to hunt the birds for 20 days during the spring bird-hunting season. The exception of Malta to conduct its spring bird hunting came in 2009 when a European court of justice permitted the hunting season because not many birds are available for hunters in the autumn season. The quail and turtle doves only appear in Malta during spring migration.

Prime Minister Gives Support for Spring Bird Hunting

The hunting practice was backed by Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who announced that the vote was won by about a 51 percent margin. Muscat told reporters that Malta citizens had been given this chance to vote on the fate of the issue, and that even though the hunters won, they must still be aware that nearly half of the people oppose the spring bird hunting. He stated that the law must be respected by both sides.

Conservationists Fear Loss of Birds

Conservationists had asked for the vote because they want to end the practice of allowing bird hunting to go on during breeding season, as the birds in question are those that travel north for breeding after they have spent the winter in Africa. They add that some hunters don’t obey the law and hunt protected species throughout the year. Birdlife Malta, one of the conservation groups, says turtle dove populations in Malta have gone down 77 percent since 1980.

Based on studies on the spring bird hunting, and hunter data collected, in the spring of 2014, the birds killed numbered 4,131 turtle doves and 37 quail, which was only 38 percent of what is allowed to be taken during this 20-day period when the hunters travel to hunt for the turtle doves and quail.

Malta Spring Bird Hunting Changes Over the Years

Reports show that hunting has changed drastically since the 1980s and 1990s, as then the bird hunting was not as regulated. Since Malta became part of the European Union, some hunting time periods have been removed and if a bird hunter is caught shooting birds out of season, they are receiving punishments in the form of fines and jail time.

The bird hunters are expected to follow specific bird hunting guidelines during the spring hunts. These include:

  • Limiting the birds killed to 11,000 doves and 5,000 quail, which is done via a quota dependent on the number of birds killed in the previous autumn hunting season.
  • Bird hunters can only kill two of each kind of birds in a day and are limited to four birds in the entire spring season.
  • Hunters must get a special bird hunting license
  • Hunters must report when they are going into a hunting area, as well as when they kill a bird, prior to leaving the area
  • Any hunter breaking the law is fined €5,000 for their first offense, and get a year in prison and their license is revoked. A second offense gets the violator a fine of €10,000 and a two year jail sentence

The bottom line is that Malta hunters can continue to travel to their chosen hunting areas and go bird hunting since the vote to continue the spring hunting season came out in their favor.

In the spirit of birds, check out the first episode of “Wanderlust: Up In The Air” for high-flying action: