What is the Birds Directive?
The Birds Directive is the European Union’s legislation relating to wild birds and their habitats. This directive sets out the measures that need to be taken to protect wild birds, and the conditions that need to be met for the exploitation of wild birds. The Birds Directive is one of the most important pieces of nature legislation in Europe and takes into consideration the fact that birds know no national boundaries and migration is therefore a transnational phenomenon, needing protection at a Europe wide level.
Malta’s Accession Treaty
When Malta joined the EU it agreed to gradually phase out trapping for seven finch species over a five year period, subject to certain conditions. The phasing out period ended on the 31st December 2008 and as of 2009 the government has stopped finch trapping in line with Malta’s EU Accession Treaty agreement.
Derogations on trapping
Derogations are special exemptions where a member state can opt not to enforce a specific provision of a directive. Derogations on the Birds Directive can only be applied in exceptional circumstances, subject to specific conditions and if there is no suitable alternative. Each member state has to report to the European Commission on an annual basis justifying the derogation.
Member states are obliged to ensure that derogations are carried out under strictly supervised conditions, specifying which authorities are empowered to declare that the required conditions are met and decide on what means, arrangements or methods may be used, within what limits and by whom. Member states are also obliged to specify what controls will put in place.
Another criteria which must be met to allow a limited capture of wild birds, subject to certain conditions, is that the permitted activity must not negatively affect the bird’s population. Activities which harm local populations may not be permitted under the Birds Directive.
Derogations must be applied in line with the conditions and circumstances listed in the Birds Directive. Failure to do so could result in the European Commission taking action against a member state.
On 25th September 2012 the Maltese government announced a derogation to allow the trapping of two species: Golden Plover and Song Thrush. BirdLife Malta believes this derogation is un-justified and does not adequately meet the conditions specified by the Birds Directive, specifically that of "strict control".
Monitoring of previous trapping derogations has uncovered widespread illegal trapping of protected species, including finches and waders. Policing of previous trapping seasons has been insufficient to prevent illegal targetting of protected bird, which is carried out with impunity under the cover of the "legal" trapping season.
Illegal trapping: take action
If you witness illegal trapping you can take action by reporting incidents to the police and to BirdLife Malta.
What is illegal in the 2012 autumn trapping season?