Amid Covid pandemic, families could lose access to parts of Ahrax, Mizieb during hunting hours
amid covid pandemic families could lose access to parts of ahrax mizieb during hunting hours - Amid Covid pandemic, families could lose access to parts of Ahrax, Mizieb during hunting hours


Kevin Schembri Orland

Thursday, 1 April 2021, 08:51
Last update: about 8 minutes ago

Should the government open a spring hunting season, parts of Mizieb and Ahrax will be restricted to the public for certain times of day, the Federazzjoni Kaccaturi Nassaba Konservazzjonisti (FKNK) confirmed with The Malta Independent, highlighting that this would be for safety reasons.

This newsroom sent a number of questions to the hunting lobby group following some queries this newsroom received as to whether the parks of Mizieb and Ahrax would be closed to the public during the spring hunting season. The concerns raised were due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, as more people have turned to taking to the countryside for their recreational enjoyment. The concern was that having two such sizable areas closed would severely limit options for people to enjoy the outdoors during this pandemic period.

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The government has issued a number of Covid-19 restrictions up until April 11, which would roughly be around the planned time when the hunting season would begin if approved, however it is not yet clear what restrictions will be lifted around that time. Indeed the government said that restrictions will be lifted gradually after April 11, indicating that there will still be some Covid-19 restrictions in place after that date.

The FKNK highlighted that there will be certain restrictions to their reserves during the hunting season for safety reasons, but that they will not be restricted throughout the whole day.

Unlike other NGO administered Reserves, the FKNK 34-years administered Reserves in Mizieb and Ahrax are not fenced-in nor locked with gates. The public in general has thus always had free access to the areas.  For safety reasons, during the brief open hunting seasons, like the 21 half-day forthcoming spring hunting season, the public’s access is restricted, only in those areas where hunting takes place, never in the several kilometers of pathways within the Reserves, and the picnic and camping areas also situated within the Reserves.”

“When the hunting season closes, for instance in the afternoons of the spring hunting season, the public again gains free access to the whole area. This is the way it has always been and the way it will stay.”

“Unfortunately, the respect for the natural environment in the Reserves is often lacking by some of the picnickers, the campers and others who frequent the Reserves, who more often than not leave behind loads of rubbish and at times have also vandalised trees, signs, etc., for the FKNK voluntary members to clean-after and attend to as necessary.”

The Ornis committee in March had recommended that the spring hunting season open between 10 – 30 April, however the government has yet to officially announce the opening of the season.

In the meantime, BirdLife Malta had filed a judicial protest against the Minister for the Environment, the Minister for Gozo and the Head of the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) for plans to open a spring hunting season “without meeting the targets and criteria stipulated by law.”

BirdLife Malta had said that the law stipulates the Government can only open a spring hunting season – which is a derogation from the European Birds Directive – if the autumn hunting season was not a satisfactory alternative. “This means that a spring hunting season on Common Quail (Summiena) is dependent on the amount of quail hunted during the previous autumn. In view of this, the Government obliges all hunters to declare their catches, and hunters are legally obliged to declare in full all their hunted birds. It was obvious this motivated hunters not to declare their catches and over time the participation level of hunters started dwindling. This was accepted by the WBRU and the hunting organisations who did nothing to install discipline within their hunter members to meet this obligation,” Birdlife said.

“In 2020 only 292 hunters, or 2.7% of the total of 10,675 licenced hunters participated in the carnet de chasse.” With such a low level of participation, BirdLife Malta is arguing that this does not provide sufficient data for the Government to reach a decision and therefore disallows the Government from opening a spring hunting season this year.

The FKNK had responded to this. arguing that this was just another attempt by BirdLife to stop spring hunting in Malta once and for all.

The hunting lobby group argued that despite a European Court verdict in 2009 and the 2015 referendum, BirdLife Malta has not accepted the two defeats it suffered.

The FKNK argued that BirdLife Malta’s claims were unfounded.

The FKNK said that Malta has the best reporting system in Europe, as the capturing of birds reporting is done via SMS, the enforcement of regulations is immensely efficient, and that there are many spot checks done by the police on hunters, meaning that officers can verify during such checks and during road blocks whether a hunter has filed his or her report or not.

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