The decision to open the spring hunting season was not taken by Cabinet, as was expected, The Malta Independent is informed.
The government yesterday announced that it had taken up the advice given by the Ornis committee and hunting will be allowed between 10 and 30 April. Hunters are only allowed to shoot quail, and the bag limit has been set at 5,000.
This newsroom is informed that a number of Cabinet members were completely surprised when the government announced the opening of the hunting season yesterday because the decision was expected to be taken during a Cabinet meeting this week. Cabinet normally meets on Tuesday mornings.
While it was widely expected that the season would be opened, Cabinet members were shocked to learn, from the media, that the decision was taken behind their backs.
One source said the subject was discussed during a Cabinet meeting last week but no final decision had been taken and there was still a lot to be discussed on related issues, like health considerations and enforcement.
Prime Minister Robert Abela shocked many on Sunday morning when he said that people are allowed to go out. His statement jarred with the advice given by the Superintendent of Public Health, Charmaine Gauci, who has been urging people to stay inside to avoid the spread of Covid-19.
Another source said the PM had angered a number of his ministers after he bowed down to pressure by the hunting lobby. The PM’s statement on Sunday morning was just a way of “sweetening the pill” before the government announced the opening of the season, the source said.
The PM went against the advice of the health authorities in order to please the hunting community while at the same time avoiding criticism that hunters were being special privileges, the source continued.
When asked whether the decision had been taken by the PM or by Cabinet, Deputy PM Chris Fearne said yesterday that the decision “was taken by the Ornis committee.”
Sources pointed out, however, that the Ornis committee only makes reccomnendations, while the decision is taken by government.
Police ‘will have necessary resources’
Also speaking during the press conference, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri said the police will have the necessary resources to enforce hunting laws during the spring hunting season.
Concerns have been raised over police resources, seeing that the entire ALE unit, which is tasked with monitoring wildlife crime, has been redeployed on Covid-19 quarantine checks.
Camilleri said that the police force is always prepared for all eventualities and it will have the required number of officers to monitor hunting.
The police will be assisted by other law enforcement agencies, he said.
Apart from enforcing hunting laws, the police will also make sure that hunters do not go against the recommendations issued by the public health authorities. Hunters over the age of 65 are now allowed to go out, while hunters cannot congregate in groups of more than three.
During the press conference, Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne was asked whether the decision was taken by the Prime Minister directly or by the Cabinet. Fearne simply said that the decision was taken by the Ornis committee.
The hunting season
The season will run between 10 and 30 April. Hunters over the age of 65 and all those who are listed as vulnerable persons cannot go out to hunt, the government said.
Hunting is allowed from two hours before sunrise to noon, including on weekends.
The national quota is 5,000 quail in total, and there will not be an individual quota.
Hunters in quarantine and those ordered to remain in isolation will also not be allowed to hunt. “These, and all other directives issued by the health authorities, including that people cannot be in groups larger than three, must be obeyed,” the statement read, adding that the fines for breaching the above (such as 100 euros for being in groups of more than three) will also count. The government said that no form of abuse will be tolerated.
FKNK tells hunters to police themselves
In a statement, the hunting federation urged all hunters to observe the laws “without compromise” and to observe the recommendations issued by the health authorities.
It urged its members not to give any excuses to those who want hunting to stop, telling them that they must be the ‘police’ and work hard to safeguard the tradition.
Any compromise on health and hunting could lead to drastic consequences, the FKNK said.