Malta could face fines for failing to follow the EU bird directive

Finch-trapping, which was once commonly used across Europe,t has now been progressively rolled back by the EU bird directive, with the aim of protecting bird species as well as their habitats. But, the practice of this method is still being used in Malta. This has led to many species becoming close to extinction – causing outrage among environmental groups including BirdLife Europe.

In light of this, the European Court has now ruled that Malta has persistently broken EU law. Because it’s allowed the practice to continue despite warnings, they could also face substantial fines unless it makes some changes.  According to reports, around 110,000 finches have been caught by hunters since 2014, as well as other species of wild birds includes golden plovers and song thrushes.

The ruling said: “Trapping in Malta is so intensive that only a handful of each of the common finch species regularly breed on the islands, whereas they breed in high numbers in other areas of the Mediterranean.” Catherine Bearder, Liberal Democrat MEP, described the ruling as “a welcome judgment that confirms what we have all known for too long. The slaughter of these wonderful birds is illegal and unsustainable. The EU must step in and take action to stop the killing without delay.”

Malta argued in court that the EU bird directive states that countries can balance conservation of birds with leisure activities, and that’s what it’s currently doing. However, the judges said that it applies to a “small numbers of birds” and that other, more humane alternatives need to be considered going forward.

According to BirdLife, trapping finches in Malta was due to resume later in the year when hunting season arrives. Because of this verdict, it will now be illegal and apply to seven protected species of bird. Ariel Brunner, BirdLife’s policy chief, noted: “Today’s court judgment sends a message that the rule of law must be respected. It should mark the end of indiscriminate trapping, which is a completely unsustainable and barbaric practice.”

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