Updated 3.05pm

The government has closed the trapping season for golden plovers, saying the “overall seasonal bag limit” had been reached. 

In a notice on the Government Gazette on Monday, the Environment Ministry said the autumn 2019 live-capturing special licences have “lapsed and are considered revoked”.

That notice echoed a message posted on social media by the Wild Birds Regulation Unit, which monitors and regulates the sector.

The WBRU issued its statement on social media on the afternoon of Friday, January 10. According to the law, the spring trapping season was due to end that same evening. 

Reacting, BirdLife Malta said that this year's autumn trapping season had been 10 days longer than that usually permitted and that enforcement was low, "police presence was lacking and at times absent." 

The most widespread abuse, they said, was the "rampant and unregulated use of illegal electronic birdcallers". 

In December, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) had urged the Maltese government to immediately close the trapping season for golden plovers after its teams witnessed massive abuse over a number of nights.

The infringements included the extensive use of illegal bird callers, night trapping outside the permitted hours, contravening the reporting requirement for trapped birds, as well as the illegal sale of wild-caught golden plovers on maltapark.com.

CABS had also said that its office had also received more than a dozen reports from the public complaining about loud bird callers used for illegal hunting and trapping.

The reports were confirmed by CABS teams who mapped 35 locations from where illegal bird callers for golden plovers could be heard.

Malta has regularly applied for two separate derogations on trapping from the EU Birds Directive – one concerning finches and the other on song thrushes and golden plovers.

Both exceptions have long been subject to EU infringement proceedings, and while the Commission took Malta to court over finch trapping, action on the other exception has been left on the back burner. The infringement proceedings were initiated by the European Commission in 2011.

Correction January 14: A previous version of this article stated that the trapping season was due to end at the end of January, not January 10.