Hunters will be allowed to trap protected songbirds as part of a study on their migration habits due to be announced next week, activists say.
The practice of trapping finches has been banned in Malta since an EU court judgment in 2018.
But in August, Times of Malta reported how the birds could once again find themselves in trappers’ nets, as part of a proposed study being considered by the government.
Conservationist group BirdLife Malta says that study has now been approved and is due to be announced next week.
CEO Mark Sultana claimed the decision goes against the EU’s Birds Directive and is part of a campaign to appease hunters lobby FKNK, which was last week handed two woodlands to manage.
"It could be that all these favours are simply a short-term political exercise, but it doesn't matter. The truth is that the public does not want a spineless government. They want a government that safeguards their environment," he said.
Times of Malta has reached out to the Wild Birds Regulation Unit for comment.
In 2018, the European Court of Justice ruled that Malta’s finch trapping practices were illegal.
Since then only two species of unprotected bird - the golden plover and the song thrush – have been allowed to be trapped in nets.
But the new move would allow the protected songbirds to be caught again, as long as they are tagged, and then released back into the wild as part of a study into where trapped birds are migrating from.
In its statement, BirdLife said that "the present situation is completely surreal, with the government challenging EU directives under the weak excuse that trappers will be carrying out scientific studies."
Sultana said that "the population is not so easily fooled into believing that trapped birds will be released."
The NGO said further public resistance was needed to oppose the concessions, and that it believes that the outrage over the concessions needs to be harnessed to keep on piling pressure on Abela's administration.