FKNK case against BirdLife drags on

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FKNK case against BirdLife drags on

Wednesday 18 January 2015

BirdLife Malta activists set for fourth hearing in case brought against them by FKNK for saving illegally shot birds.

BirdLife Malta activists today gave their evidence in court to answer charges brought against them by the FKNK (Federation of Hunters, Trappers and Conservationists) in connection with their work saving illegally shot birds.

Nicholas Barbara and Fiona Burrows are charged with posession of protected species of birds, following a complaint made to the police by the FKNK hunting federation. The charges relate to a photograph released by BirdLife Malta in October 2012, showing staff and volunteers with birds which had been illegally shot, found by members of the public and brought to BirdLife in order for them to be seen by a vet.

Speaking after the court hearing today, Nicholas Barbara said “These birds were all illegally shot during an open autumn hunting season but instead of condeming illegal hunting, FKNK have accused us of criminal acts for trying to save the birds. This is a waste of our time and taxpayers money.”

Shot Common Kestrel Oct2012

Illegally shot common kestrel Oct 2012. Birdlife Malta Archive

The birds were brought to a vet who found that all seven had gunshot injuries; one was blinded in the eye and five had broken wings. Five had injuries so bad that they had no chance of recovery and were euthanised by the vet. One, a young marsh harrier, was able to be released on Comino but it had lead shot in its shoulder.

The court heard how every incident of injured birds brought to, or collected by BirdLife Malta is strictly documented, with information sent to the police and the government. Mr Barbara also told the court that it was not unknown for the police to phone BirdLife Malta and ask the organisation to collect birds.

Shot Hoopoe Oct2012

Illegally shot hoopoe Oct 2012, one of the birds related to the case. BirdLife Malta Archive

In a previous sitting, charges were dropped against another BirdLife Malta staff member, Caroline Rance, when the court heard that she was not in the photograph in question.

Sentencing will be delivered on 6 May 2015. The court had suggested the case should finish next week but the FKNK’s lawyer could not seem to find an available date until after the 11 April.

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On 3 October 2012, a female Common Kestrel was recovered from Ta’ Qali. BirdLife brought the bird to be examined by a vet and it found to have a shotgun injury, ripped skin on its body, a fractured right wing and an infected wound on the right wing. It was euthanized.

  1. On 4 October 2012, a female Common Kestrel was recovered near Bingemma Fort. BirdLife Malta brought the bird to be examined by a vet and it was found to have a gunshot wound and fracture to the left wing at the joint. It was euthanised.
  2. On 4 October 2012, a Night Heron was recovered from Bormla. It died while waiting to be seen by the vet. Its body was examined by the vet and found to have a gunshot wound to the left wing.
  3. On 4 October 2012, a male Lesser Kestrel was recovered from Għaxaq. BirdLife Malta brought the bird to be examined by a vet and it was found to have been shot as a result of which it was blind in the right eye and had soft tissue injury to the left wing. It was euthanised.
  4. On 5 October 2012, a Hoopoe was recovered from Baħrija. BirdLife Malta brought the bird to be examined by a vet and it was found to have been shot, with a fracture to the right wing and a fracture to the right leg. It was euthanised.
  5. On 5 October 2012, a female Marsh Harrier was recovered from Għajn Tuffieħa. BirdLife Malta brought the bird to be examined by a vet and it was found to have been shot. An xray was taken which showed a gunshot pellet lodged in the right shoulder. The vet recommended that the bird be released, and on 6 Ocotber 2012 BirdLife Malta released the bird on Comino.
  6. On 5 October 2012, a juvenile Honey Buzzard was recovered from Armier. BirdLife Malta brought the bird to be examined by a vet and it was found to have a gunshot wound and multiple fractures to the right wing.

 

For more information, please contact:

Caroline Rance, BirdLife Malta Communications Manager

Mobile: 7761 5533

caroline.rance@birdlifemalta.org

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Spring Hunting Assembly: Resounding NO By Speakers

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 Wednesday, 4th February, 2015

Spring Hunting Assembly: Resounding NO by speakers

KSU held a general assembly Wednesday afternoon in which a number of students expressed their sentiment about the forthocming Spring Hunting referendum. A number of people from a different number of organisations took centre stage, with all speakers arguing in favour of the “NO” vote. Insite’s Charles Mercieca reports:

Today’s KSU’s General Assembly on the Spring Hunting Referendum was fitting for two reasons: Firstly, it took place beneath some (nervous) chirping from inside the trees of the Quadrangle. And secondly, since KSU represents all University Students, having an open debate like this to influence its social policy is a worthy exercise in direct democracy.  In his opening remarks, Social Policy Coordinator Andrew Muscat explained how historically KSU had been opposed to spring hunting and in favour of a referendum. Now that that referendum was happening, it is only logical to review its position once again.

After Debate Chairman Kersten Mallia laid down some ground rules, JEF member Jake Azzopardi started the discussion by emphasising that the referendum should address primarily with the issue of sustainability, and that maintaining a tradition for tradition’s sake is wrong. He pointed out that Malta is characterised by voter apathy: simply electing a politician and then taking a backseat while he votes in Parliament as he wishes, thereby giving the politician great power. This referendum on the other hand was a triumph for self-governance.

 

(Assembly Chairman Kersten Mallia, together with KSU Social Policy Commissioners Becky Micallef and Andrew Muscat)

Julia Farrugia, Y4TE President, pointed out that this referendum is not about stopping all hunting, the affecting of other hobbies and the trampling on rights. Rather, it just aims to protect birds on the three-week period of the year when they are most vulnerable. Citing expensive rehabilitation projects of the European Robin and Short-Ear Owl, she emphasized the immediacy of the situation and that action is to be taken now.

Lucia Farrugia, S-Cubed Social Policy Officer, explained how one bird killed in Spring is not equivalent to one bird killed in Autumn. Indeed, Mina Tolu later said that an estimated 190,000 hatchlings are being lost every spring season, a staggering number. Farrugia also brought up the issues of noise pollution impacting other animals and the decline of birds due to destruction of their natural habitat, agriculture and pesticides. She said that the central Mediterranean migration route is not well studied, so one can’t really quantify the effects.

Meanwhile, Birdlife Malta member Nicholas Galea emphasized that Malta is the only European country that allows hunting in springtime. He echoed previous calls for conservation and said that the real victims are the birds, not the hunters.

 

…more than half of Maltese MP’s did not reveal their position when asked, and how both the Minister for the Environment and the Shadow Minister refused to declare their stance publically

 

S-Cubed Vice President, Alex Hili, expressed his frustration with the contradictions of both political parties, which he said was a result of political bullying by a group of 10,000 hunters. He pointed out how more than half of Maltese MP’s did not reveal their position when asked, and how both the Minister for the Environment and the Shadow Minister refused to declare their stance publically. Mr. Hili also called for logical arguments to be brought forward, and concluded by saying: ‘If you want to debate something, debate it: but don’t bully others’.

Y4TE Activities Co-ordinator Bernice Saliba, highlighted the illogicality that is using self-satisfaction and enjoyment as an excuse to continue destroying the environment, insisting that this shouldn’t be treated as a complicated issue when it reality it isn’t.

audience

SDM Executive Member Steve Zammit Lupi emphasized the decline of the turtle dove in Europe, and insisted that the derogation could only be applied if strict conditions were being met, which clearly is not the case. He also spoke about the importance of not speaking about two species in isolation, since everything is linked in a single ecosystem. Zammit Lupi concluded by referring to an all too familiar story: the Barn Owl and Peregrine Falcon also once flew our skies.

Brendan Zerafa presented some interesting numbers that answered the question of why the turtle dove’s conservation status is listed as being of ‘least concern’. He explained that for a species to be declared vulnerable, its population has to dip below 10,000. Furthermore, a decline is defined as a 30% decrease over a period of 10 years. He emphasized that in Northern Europe the extinction of the turtle dove was an all too real possibility, pinned by some estimates as occurring by 2021.

 

He also compared the effects hunters have on our politicians to the American lobbies that influence congress. Rather than succumbing to this form of democracy, Zerafa said that ‘the citizen must think for himself’, and that ‘democracy is something alive’.

 

He also compared the effects hunters have on our politicians to the American lobbies that influence congress. Rather than succumbing to this form of democracy, Zerafa said that ‘the citizen must think for himself’, and that ‘democracy is something alive’.

Debates as to how the population of turtle doves was measured soon followed, with Mr. Hili explaining the popular ‘mark and recapture’ method, where a sample number of birds are captured and tagged and released. After some time this is recaptured and the population is estimated.

Some people expressed scepticism to people quoting the number of gunshots or shotgun cartridges as being a suitable metric. BirdLife’s Christian Debono however explained that the shot count was just an indication which would be compared with the SMS’s received. He explained that for instance while the shot count would remain almost the same, the number of SMS’s from hunters reporting their kills would peak on the final day or two of the season, therefore something must be off. He also expressed his concern with a recent proposal by the ORNIS comittee to bestow an amnesty on birds taxidermied before 2003. He explained that only analysis in a lab could date the time of taxidermy, and so, in effect, this was a total amnesty altogether.

fknk directive

Another point of discussion concerned the legislation: It was made pretty clear that such an abrogative referendum removes a particular law, and in this particular situation, Spring Hunting is actually not just regulated, but allowed by a specific legislation (Subsidiary Legislations 504.94 and 504.117 for you legal folks) Practically every other hobby in Malta has no specific law allowing its practice, only laws that regulate the extent of its usage them.

A point raised by members of the audience was that if the argument deals with sustainability, why not address the depleted fish stocks as well? A member of the audience explained that the fisheries industry is much more regulated, and quotas are issued by international bodies that take ecological factors into account. Also, contrary to hunting, fish offer a large contribution to the economy as they are exported to foreign markets, a financial advantage that spring hunting (and its abolition thereof) may not have.

Noticeably absent were any arguments in favour of hunting by members, which leaves us unopinionated fellows with the only alternative of visiting Progressivi Qawra’s Facebook page and appreciating their latest photo shopped marvel.

Insite Photos courtesy of Rebecca Elizabeth Kemp. 

Historical day for Malta and clear win for democracy

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Historical day for Malta and clear win for democracy

Friday, 9th January, 2014

Coalition for the Abolition of Spring Hunting

 Media release

The Constitutional Court’s positive decision made this morning in court to allow a referendum on spring hunting to take place is a clear win for democracy  in Malta. The Coalition for the Abolition of Spring Hunting is happy to witness history in the making, history which would not have been possible without the support and signatures of over 40,000 Maltese voters, people who want to see change happen in Malta, who have pledged to make the Maltese environment better and are true leaders of change.

dead-turtle-dove

One dead bird in spring means one potential nest lost

 

Romina Tolu, Campaign Coordinator for the Coalition said, “the process which has led to this morning’s decision by the courts was a particularly lengthy one, in which the hunting lobby tried to delay and mislead the people and the courts time and time again. It is now crystal clear that the legislation in question is not an EU treaty obligation and it is more than evident that the hunting lobby were clutching at loose strings from the start.”

A decision which places power in the hands of the Maltese electorate to express themselves on an important national issue is nothing but a positive opportunity for democracy in Malta. This can see an end to the concessions and backroom deals made between politicians and the hunting lobby at the cost of our migratory birds.

The Coalition now waits for the date of the referendum to be set by the President, following which they will launch their referendum campaign.

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For more information please contact: Romina Tolu ; Coalition for Abolition of Spring Hunting  Campaign Coordinator romina.tolu@birdlifemalta.org  Mob: 99801261

Note:

The Coalition for the Abolition of Spring Hunting is formed by 14 organisations in Malta to rally support, and lobby for an abrogative referendum on Spring Hunting; Alternattiva Demokratika, BirdLife Malta, Coalition for Animal Rights, Din L-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien għal-Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth Malta, Gaia Foundation, Greenhouse Malta, International Animal Rescue Malta, Malta Organic Agriculture Movement, Moviment Graffiti, Nature Trust, Ramblers Association Malta, Youth for the Environment.

High number of Scopoli’s Shearwaters stranded on land

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High number of Scopoli’s Shearwaters stranded on land; appeal for less light pollution

Saturday 25th October 2014

BirdLife Malta has today reported 17 cases of young Scopoli’s Shearwaters stranded inland due to the effects of light pollution in the past two weeks alone. The organisation is appealing for the authorities to tackle coastal light pollution, and to members of the public to report shearwater strandings.

Young Scopoli’s Shearwater found stranded in Xlendi on 15/10/2014, before being successfully released at Ta Ċenċ cliffs. Photo by Joe Sultana.

Young Scopoli’s Shearwater found stranded in Xlendi on 15/10/2014, before being successfully released at Ta Ċenċ cliffs. Photo by Joe Sultana.

The Scopoli’s Shearwater, Ċiefa in Maltese, is one of four nesting seabirds in the Maltese Islands. Spending their whole lives at sea and approaching land only at night, these birds nest in Malta’s remote cliffs away from developed areas. Following their breeding season in summer, young Scopoli’s Shearwaters start venturing out from their cliff nests from late September into October, relying on the safety of darkness to do so. Very much like marine turtles, young Scopoli’s rely on the natural brightest source of light at night, the horizon, in order to be guided offshore. Insensitive lighting from coastal development misleads these birds inland, often ending with these birds grounded and unable to make it back to the sea.

“Light pollution is one of the main threats for Malta’s shearwaters, not only causing these strandings but also the abandonment of entire colonies in the past” said Dr. Benjamin Metzger, Head of Researcher at the LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project (1).

2_2014.10.24_Scopoli's_stranded at Cirkewwa_released at Rdum tal-Madonna_ BenMetzger

Young Scopoli’s Shearwater found stranded at Cirkewwa on 24/10/2014, before being successfully released at Rdum tal-Madonna. Photo by Ben Metzger.

BirdLife Malta has been collecting data on stranding cases since the late 70’s, in order to monitor high risk areas for shearwaters, and raise awareness of this issue. A first report published with the Light Pollution Awareness Group (LPAG) (2) in 2007 had looked into ways of mitigating the problem (3). Despite coastal development sites being subjected to permits demanding lighting schemes, the stranding phenomenon appears to be on the increase as a result of yet increasing coastal light pollution, to the detriment of shearwater populations (4).

LPAG advisor Alexei Pace said, “In the light of these events it is clear that there is a need for development-planning policies to tackle coastal light pollution – especially near shearwater colony sites as it continues to cause strandings year after year. Coastal resorts in all sensitive areas should be encouraged to take a pro-active approach in addressing the issue.  Nowadays there is a vast selection of light fittings available which assists in mitigating such problems at no additional costs; if light pollution is tackled during the early stages of a building development.”

BirdLife Malta has appealed to government authorities and local councils to address the problem, while it also asked the public to report any cases of grounded shearwaters they come across. When found stranded, the majority of these birds can be quickly released back to the wild unharmed. Testimony to this is a ringed Yelkouan Shearwater (Garnija in Maltese) which was found nesting at Il-Majjistral in 2014. This individual had been reported stranded at Qawra in 2011 and was successfully released. “Although these efforts certainly help to save these birds, we need to address the cause behind these strandings,” added Dr Metzger.

Scopoli’s Shearwaters are recognised by their grey-brown back, contrasting with a white under side and a large yellow bill. Reports of strandings can be addressed to BirdLife Malta on  2134 7644.

Young Scopoli’s Shearwater found stranded at Cirkewwa on 24/10/2014, before being successfully released at Rdum tal-Madonna. Photo by Ben Metzger.

Young Scopoli’s Shearwater found stranded at Cirkewwa on 24/10/2014, before being successfully released at Rdum tal-Madonna. Photo by Ben Metzger.

The EU Life+ Malta Seabird Project aims to identify Marine Important Bird Areas for the three species of tubenose seabirds breeding in the Maltese Islands. The project is 50% funded by the EU’s LIFE unit, and is a partnership between BirdLife Malta, the RSPB (BirdLife UK), SPEA (BirdLife Portugal) and the Ministry for Sustainable Development, Environment and Climate Change

 

 

 

 

 

(1)  LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project Blog: http://maltaseabirdproject.wordpress.com/

(2)  Light Pollution Awareness Group part of the Astronomical Society of Malta: http://www.maltastro.org

(3)  “Light pollution and its effect on Yelkouan Shearwaters: causes and solutions” http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/project/Projects/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.showFile&rep=file&fil=light-pollution.pdf

(4)  “Light pollution impact on “tubenose” seabirds: an overview of areas of concern in the Maltese Islands” on the reports pages on BirdLife Malta’s website: http://www.birdlifemalta.org/Content/publications/reports/1227/

 

 

Conservation charities around Europe support development of environmental education in Malta

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Monday 29th September 2014

Conservation charities around Europe support development of environmental education in Malta

This morning saw the launch of a new initiative to develop environmental education in Malta entitled ‘Lifelong Learning through Nature’. Funded with support from the European Commission this project will bring together expertise from European Partners including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, BirdWatch Ireland, and the Polish Society for the Protection of Birds.

Running for three years from September 2014 until August 2017 this project will receive a total of €253,700. This funding will be used to develop new environmental education resources and initiatives both here in Malta and in the partner European countries.

Hon. Minister Bartolo opening the launch event. Photo by Holly Forsyth

Hon. Minister Bartolo opening the launch event. (Holly Forsyth)

The education work of BirdLife Malta has always received support from the Ministry for Education and Employment, and now this partnership has taken a great step forwards to lead the development of this new project. Addressing the crowd at the launch event, held at Għadira Nature Reserve, Hon. Minister Evarist Bartolo said “I was brought up close to Għadira Reserve and was lucky enough to enjoy many experiences in nature growing up. These days there are fewer opportunities to have these same experiences, but they are vitally important for the next generation growing up to know and understand the world around us.”

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Newark School pupils discover bird ringing. (Holly Forsyth)

The launch event was held at Għadira nature reserve to highlight the importance of learning outside the classroom for students of all ages. A group from Newark School participated in the event, taking part in nature based activities led by the international partners. Suzanne Welch, Education Manager for the RSPB, has many years experience in researching the positive effects of outdoor learning and spoke out about the benefits this new initiative will bring. Ms Welch said “Learning outside the classroom can improve educational attainment, health and wellbeing for the young people involved.”

At the event Hon. Minister Bartolo welcomed the international partners to Malta and thanked them for the input which they will contribute over the coming three years. BirdLife Malta’s Executive Director, Steve Micklewright, explained the project in more detail saying “during the lifetime of the project new initiatives will be developed to allow young people more opportunities to learn about the world around them”.

Newark Pupils explore the nature trail at Għadira. (Holly Forsyth)

Newark Pupils explore the nature trail at Għadira (Holly Forsyth)

Mr Micklewright went on to highlight how Malta will be used as a model of best practise saying, “following successful implementation of the proposals here in Malta the ideas and resources will then be adapted for use in the European partner countries. Malta will lead the way for environmental education”.

BirdLife Malta would like to thank the Ministry of Education and Employment, the European Commission, and all of the international partners for their support in developing this new initiative.

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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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Pre-grilling Open Letter to Karmenu Vella From BirdLife Malta

Pre-grilling Open Letter to Karmenu Vella From BirdLife Malta

BirdLife Malta

Friday, 26th September 2014

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BirdLife Malta has today sent an open letter  to Karmenu Vella, proposed Maltese European Commissioner for the Environment,  Martime Affairs and Fisheries, ahead of his grilling by MEPs in Brussels on Monday.

In the letter, BirdLife Malta urges Mr Vella to give clear and unequivocal answers to questions about the Birds Directive and how he will deal with how it is mispplied in Malta and elsewhere.  This  follows comments by departing European Commissioner Potocnik at a conference earlier this week in which he clearly challenged Karmenu Vella to deal with the problems in Malta caused by a “small minority,” and that hunting and illegal killing and trapping are undeniable problems in “several regions in Europe.”

BirdLife Malta Executive Director, Steve Micklewright said, “The out-going Commissioner made veiled comments about the situation in Malta in his speech and it is very clear that expectations are very high for Karmenu Vella to deal with Malta and other countries that abuse the Birds Directive to allow unsustainable hunting and trapping.”

karmenu-vella

Karmenu Vella

In its open letter to Mr Vella, BirdLife Malta calls on him to clearly state his position on a number of key issues that affect Malta in particular.  Mr Micklewright added, “Malta currently exploits its ability to make exceptions from the Birds Directive through derogations to allow hunting in spring and the trapping of birds.  These are expressly forbidden by the Birds Directive and Mr Vella needs to explain how he is going to stop such abuses of EU rules which currently benefit vociferous and powerful interest groups such as the Maltese hunting community.”

The departing Commissioner also indicated that closer cooperation between the authorities, hunters and conservationists is needed on the ground in countries where illegal and unsustainable hunting is a problem.  Mr Micklewright added, “Recent events in Malta have shown that the hunting  community reacts badly and violently when they do not get their way.  Based on his knowledge of the situation in Malta, Mr Vella should be able to provide insights into how there can be greater cooperation between hunters and conservationists, something which is desperately needed in several other EU countries, including Cyprus.”

Mr Micklewright added, “The open letter has been circulated to all of the MEPs who will grill him about environmental issues and BirdLife will be watching the discussion with great interest.”