BBC presenter and wildlife campaigner Chris Packham has lashed out at the Maltese authorities accusing them of flouting the EU Birds Directive to appease the hunting lobby.
Mr Packham made the claims at a round table discussion on Spring hunting which was held in Brussels yesterday in collaboration with Birdlife Malta. The event was hosted by Dutch MEP Anja Hazekamp who is a member of the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left.
The outspoken television presenter last year made headlines after being acquitted of assault by a Gozo court. The charges had been filed in connection with an incident that erupted while he was shooting a documentary on illegal trapping.
In his remarks Mr Packham said that each year between two and five million turtle doves were being killed across Europe. However, he acknowledged that hunting was not the only cause.
The presenter noted that the heavy use of pesticides, especially on wheat and corn, was taking its toll on various bird species.
Turning to the situation in Malta, Mr Packham did not mince his words to denounce what he described as lax enforcement.
While noting that last year the Maltese government had declared a moratorium on turtle dove hunting in the wake of indications that the population of this species was in rapid decline, he claimed that the situation on the ground was a different story.
“Maltese hunters cannot keep the trigger off and not shoot turtle doves. The law is there but it’s a joke,” he remarked.
The television presenter blamed the government for this.
“The EU Birds Directive has some of the most powerful legislation around but for some bizarre reason the Commission has not seen to implement it and uphold the law in Malta and they are getting away with it.
“The reason for that is corruption within the Maltese government. The hunting lobby is very powerful in the country. They pander to them to allow Spring hunting to continue,” he said.
Mr Packham warned that doing nothing would mean that in a few decades’ time certain species would become nearly extinct just as the case of turtle dove in the UK, which, he claimed, went down from being a very common breed to just 5,000 pairs.
“The last time I saw a turtle dove it was dead, and it was in Malta,” he said.