A legal notice allowing for the continuation of finch trapping by hunters under the guise of scientific research has been repealed, Birdlife said on Thursday. 

In a statement, the NGO said the law was repealed a day after the government's consultative Ornis committee failed to greenlight the opening of another finch trapping season. 

Times of Malta reported in August how hunters had been asked to apply for another catch-and-release ‘study’ despite Brussels having warned Malta to stop the practice or face possible court action.

The scheme was first introduced last year after the European Commission effectively banned a regular season.

It declared that, by allowing the live capture of seven species of protected wild finches, Malta was failing to fulfil its conservation obligations.

BirdLife said the government had resorted to the derogation allowing the 'scientific studies' after the European Court of Justice ruled Malta was in breach of the EU birds directive by allowing finch trapping. 

The NGO said this "smokescreen derogation" was challenged by the commission last year, with infringement procedures having been initiated last December by Brussels. 

"It seems that the prime minister and his cabinet have now allowed common sense to prevail, making sure Malta does not once again end up at the European Court of Justice, which would be the last step in the infringement procedure," Birdlife said. 

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