UPDATED 4.20pm with hunters' reaction:

A spring hunting season will be opened this year following a recommendation by the government’s advisory body – the Ornis Committee – yesterday afternoon, sources confirmed.

Turtle doves and quails will once more be targeted during their migratory period after five of the seven members of the Ornis Committee voted in favour. These were the representatives of the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, the Hunters Federation (FKNK) and the three ‘independent’ members chosen by the government The only one to vote against was Birdlife. The committee’s chair abstained.

The opening and closing dates and the quotas will be announced in due course.

The recommendation follows the narrow victory of the pro-hunting lobby in a referendum held last year to ban the controversial practice of killing birds while on their way to their breeding grounds.

A second vote was taken at the Ornis Committee to recommend to government that, in view of the international re-classification of the turtle dove as a threatened species, special measures should be taken to further reduce the impact of spring hunting on that species.

Turtle dove numbers across the globe have plummeted so rapidly the birds now face the same extinction threat as the African elephant and lion

In a rare move, this was welcomed with a unanimous vote. Turtle dove numbers across the globe have plummeted so rapidly the birds now face the same extinction threat as the African elephant and lion, conservationists said last October.

European turtle doves were added for the first time to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of species at risk of being wiped out.

The turtle dove, once a familiar summer visitor to much of Europe, has suffered declines across the continent of more than 30 per cent over the past 16 years.

As a migratory bird across two continents, it is vulnerable to being hunted while migrating. The UKbased Royal Society for the Protection of Birds attributed “strong illegal hunting of turtle dove around the Mediterranean” as one of the key factors.

In a statement this afternoon, the Kaccaturi San Ubertu welcomed the Ornis Committee decision.

The organisation's recommendations to the government, apart from a precautionary reduction in the daily hunting hours, included no change to the current quail hunting season and the introduction of wider scientific studies backed by a compensatory breeding programme for turtle dove, both funded by hunters.

It said that in comparison to 2 to 3 million turtle doves shot by other member states, Malta’s derogation implements special measures “in line with the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling” ensure a negligible impact in spring.


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