The Nationalist Party is in favour of spring hunting as long as it is done sustainably, party spokesperson Peter Agius said on Thursday in reaction to the ORNIS committee voting to allow hunting for turtle doves in the upcoming season. 

Agius was answering questions from Times of Malta at a press conference on health-related proposals in the party’s electoral manifesto. 

“It's pertinent to note that the European Commission has sent Malta a letter of infringement when it comes to spring hunting and in past seasons the government has always chosen to open the season a few days before the start of the season,” he said. 

“It is obvious that this is an attempt at vote-catching. That being said, we have always been in favour of spring hunting, we will continue to defend that right, but it must be done sustainably.”

Video: Chris Sant Fournier

Pressed on the party’s position on hunting for turtle doves, Agius said that one would have to look at the data to allow for responsible hunting. 

“We have to see and study the data properly and allow the ORNIS committee to decide without any external pressure. The timing should be as close to the normal season as possible. The timing of this decision is very questionable, to say the least,” he said. 

In response to questions sent earlier by Times of Malta, the PN said that should it be elected it would promote hunting and trapping in a “sustainable framework which starts from a serious and well-funded effort to gather proper data on species considered as vulnerable to determine the rights of Maltese hobbyists over a 5 to 10 year period with solid arguments to present to the European Union".

In a statement, independent candidate Arnold Cassola said that the Labour party had “betrayed the environment” again with the decision. 

“By removing the moratorium on quail and turtle dove hunting Labour will be complicit in the continued destruction of the little remaining natural wildlife in our country,” he said.

“This election has shown that both the Labour and the Nationalist Party are kept hostage by the threat of votes from the hunting lobby.”

“It is well past time that the thousands of Maltese who love our natural environment and its wildlife use their vote too to protect what they love. Election after election, PL and PN have betrayed the natural environment again and again.”

On Wednesday the ORNIS Committee voted in favour of lifting a moratorium on the spring hunting of turtle-dove as from this year’s spring hunting season, but the final decision has to be taken by the government. 

“The moratorium was introduced by the government in 2017 after the European Commission threatened legal action if hunting of the threatened species was allowed.  Since then hunters have only been allowed to hunt quail in spring.”

On Thursday, BirdLife Malta warned it was ready to take court action if the season was allowed to go ahead and even said that it would consider putting forward another referendum on spring hunting.

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