The ORNIS Committee on Wednesday voted in favour of lifting the moratorium on the spring hunting of turtle-doves as from this year’s spring hunting season, BirdLife said on Facebook.

Five members voted in favour of the removal of the moratorium, BirdLife Malta voted against and there was one abstention.

The moratorium was enforced by the government in 2017 after the European Commission threatened legal action if the practice was allowed to continue. Since then hunters have only been allowed to hunt quail in spring.

Addressing a news conference in the morning, BirdLife warned that the moratorium may be lifted.

BirdLife said that during the meeting, which started at 4pm, ORNIS also decided that this year’s spring hunting season for the turtle-dove should run between April 17 and 30 with a national bag limit of 1,500 birds. This vote was also approved with five ORNIS committee members voting in favour, BirdLife Malta voting against, and one abstention.

On the spring hunting of the common quail, the committee decided the spring hunting season should run between April 10 and 30 with a national bag limit of 2,400 birds. In this case there were six votes in favour and one, BirdLife Malta’s, against.

These recommendations will now be passed on to the government which has to accept and officially announce this season’s details.

BirdLife said Wednesday’s votes mean that, as was widely anticipated, and following pressure from the hunting lobby, the vulnerable turtle-dove will start being hunted again in spring in Malta, when it is on its way to its breeding grounds.

“While all of Europe is protecting this endangered species from extinction, with some European countries also stopping hunting on this bird even in autumn, Malta will be killing it during spring, hunting it down a few days before it reaches its breeding grounds,” the organisation said.

In a statement later, the hunters' federation FKNK said the committee agreed to recommend a derogation to permit turtle dove and quail hunting for a short period, under strict supervision and for very small numbers in April.

It said it will give more details during a press conference on Thursday.

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