Malta's to curb hunters who kill millions of migrating birds

A A A

Many more spring migrant birds may soon be able to get through to nest in Britain and other European countries because curbs are finally being introduced to prevent one of the biggest dangers they face on their journey from Africa - massacre in Malta.

Restrictions are finally on the way for the savage and concentrated wildlife slaughter that is the annual shoot of wild birds on the small Mediterranean island. European Union law is at last catching up with a killing frenzy that has virtually no parallel on the continent.

Every year scarcely believable numbers of thrushes, robins, larks, swallows, turtle doves and many other species, including birds of prey, are shot out of the sky as they try to use the island, situated between Sicily and Tunisia, as a staging-post in their Mediterranean crossing from Africa to Europe, and back again.

Anything that flies, from eagles to wrens, is considered fair game, with shooting taking place not only on the rocky island itself but from speedboats at sea as flocks fly past.

Some estimates of birds killed annually put the full toll at roughly two million birds, while thousands more songbirds, especially finches, are caught for the caged bird trade. The massacre of migratory flocks has provoked great anger and opposition in much of Europe where many of the birds nest when on their way to, or from, Africa. The annual massacre is thought to significantly contribute to the 70 per cent plunge in numbers of turtle doves nesting in Europe in the last 25 years - and is among other countries who over-hunt the species on their migration routes. Yet the Maltese have hitherto always been able to thumb their nose at conservationists, claiming that their bird slaughter is a national tradition. With 16,800 registered hunters and trappers) in a population of 400,000, there is powerful hunting lobby.

Now, however, the European Union is making a difference. When Malta joined the EU two years ago it was at once set on collision course with a very powerful piece of EU law - the 1979 Birds Directive, which gives many bird species protection.

The Maltese Government has tried to ignore the Birds Directive but the EU Commission in Brussels has increased the pressure on the island to conform. Late last week, faced with an imminent threat of being taken to court by the Commission, the Maltese caved in. The Government issued its Conservation of Wild Birds Regulations, 2006, to give the EU Directive force in Maltese law.

In future, Malta will have to shorten the hunting season for several species of wild birds and may have to scrap the spring hunting of birds such as turtle dove and quail. BirdLife International which has publicised the excesses of the Maltese hunting frenzy, welcomed the move at the weekend.

"Malta has finally accepted that it has been breaching European legislation since entering the Community almost two years ago" said Konstantin Kreiser from BirdLife International in Brussels. "It is a pity... that this 'understanding' only took place after Malta saw itself in the spotlight of European-wide criticism and under the immediate threat of being taken to the European Court of Justice."

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Sport
Wayne Rooney warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane
football
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
News
Danielle George is both science professor and presenter
people
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015