Birdlife warned on Thursday that it was ready to take court action if the government authorised the resumption of hunting for turtle dove in the spring. It would also consider seeking another referendum to abolish spring hunting.

The ORNIS Committee on Wednesday voted in favour of lifting a moratorium on the spring hunting of turtle-dove as from this year’s spring hunting season, but the ultimate 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.

Birdlife head Darryl Grima said that the decision to allow spring hunting for turtle dove “crossed a line”.    

“Ornis is nothing but a government puppet. We will call for another referendum if need be,” Grima said, adding that the society was also considering legal advice. 

The Spring hunting referendum was held in April 2015 and the hunting lobby won by a small margin. Those against spring hunting won the vote in Malta but it was not enough to exceed a bigger margin in favour of the hunters in Gozo.

Birdlife also complained about lines having been crossed in 2018 when it also threatened another referendum after the Ornis committee adjusted the dates for spring hunting.  

On Thursday, Birdlife said it will also be working on making sure that the European Commission knows all the details of the latest development. 

“On the eve of the election, Robert Abela did everything to ignore the rules,” Grima said. 

Asked about the referendum idea, Birdlife CEO Mark Sultana told Times of Malta that the society would be taking stock of the situation after the election. He could not divulge much detail at this point, he said.  

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