The European Commission has warned that a legal procedure started in 2010 against Malta over infringement of the EU’s trapping rules is still “active”.

Any trapping derogation must be supported by a credible, strictly supervised enforcement system

The Commission will be closely monitoring what happens on the ground this year in its evaluation on whether to take the infringement procedure further, a Commission spokesperson said.

In the autumn season that opened last month, trappers were granted a derogation from the Birds Directive to allow the trapping of two species, the song thrush and golden plover.

The spokesperson said the Commission was “very aware” of the latest development and underlined the need for strict supervision of the rules.

Insisting that “trapping is generally prohibited” in the EU, and was only allowed in exceptional circumstances through a derogation, he underlined the need for proper enforcement by the authorities. “Any trapping derogation must be supported by a credible, strictly supervised enforcement system and therefore the Maltese authorities are required to take all the necessary measures to ensure that the limits of the derogation are observed and all the beneficiaries fully abide by all the applicable trapping regulation.”

Although granting a better deal to trappers than last year, with an additional species of bird to be trapped, the Government imposed stricter rules. The Times is informed that the rules were discussed with the Commission.

For the first time, national and daily bag limits were imposed by law and trappers need to get a special licence. According to the new rules, only 5,000 song thrush and 1,150 golden plovers can be caught and the season will come to an immediate end once the national quota is reached.

Trappers are also obliged to send an SMS every time they make a catch.

Asked whether the Commission had given the green light to the new season, the spokesperson avoided a reply and instead said the infringement started against Malta on the incorrect application of the derogation during previous years was still in force.

“The Commission will continue to closely monitor the situation and it will seek further information from the Maltese authorities on the matter with a view to taking any further steps that may be required.”

At this stage, the Commission can decide either to drop the procedure or to recommend that Malta be taken to court.

Commission sources said a decision would definitely be taken after the conclusion of this year’s trapping season in January.

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