After a history of illegal bird killing, the Maltese government finally has been ordered by the European Court of Justice not to allow the spring hunting of birds â€“ a practice which is in direct contravention of European bird protection laws.
The ruling yesterday (Thursday 25 April 2008), has delighted the RSPB and its partner organisation, BirdLife Malta. This Order [note 2] implies that the Court sees urgent need to prevent irreversible damage to these migratorybird species, while a final ruling on this case is pending and not expected before 2009.
The two organisations, along with BirdLife International, have been campaigning to end the practice of hunting turtle dove and quail, which migrate over the island in spring between Africa and Europe.
Alistair Gammell is the RSPBâ€™s international director. He said: ‘Having blatantly contravened European bird protection laws since 2004, the Maltese government must now recognise that Europe expects Malta to abide by the law.
‘This is a momentous victory for bird conservation and we are delighted that after such a long battle. This decision has been taken that should mean that birds will enjoy a safer passage across the island.
‘However, the fight isnâ€™t completely won because the government will have to catch and prosecute those who insist on breaking the law.’
In January 2008, based on a complaint by BirdLife, the European Commission took the Maltese government to court for having allowed, every spring since the countryâ€™s accession to the EU in 2004, hunting and trapping of turtle dove and quail, in direct contravention of the EU Birds Directive .
Malta is located on an important bird migration route in the Mediterranean. Hunting during the sensitive breeding and spring migration period is prohibited under EU law, in all member states.
Joseph Mangion of BirdLife Malta commented: ‘We Maltese have a special responsibility for Europeâ€™s birds, as so many pass over our islands every spring and autumn. We should all work together now to conserve them.’