Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said today that the spring hunting season would open on Tuesday and the legal notice would be issued as soon as the referendum official result was out..
He said the referendum had given a 'final chance' to hunters and he would not tolerate abuse.
Speaking at a press conference, Dr Muscat said it appeared that the Yes camp had won a close race at 50.8% to 51% or some 4,000 votes.
This, he said was a close but clear result. Malta had also had general elections which were decided by closer margins.
He welcomed the No declaration that they would respect the outcome.
In his view, Dr Muscat said, the people had given what was perhaps the last chance to honest hunters to practice their sport, but they had to realise that the game had changed now. Practically half the people had said that were it up to them spring hunting would stop.
Hunters who observed the law needed to realise that when spring hunting opened on Tuesday, they had a duty to report the criminals who hunted illegally. It was a small majority of people which had given them a final chance, and they need to get it right.
This, he said, was also a strong message by the people in favour of the environment which he as prime minister would not ignore. Environmental awareness was rising.
Today’s result was no reason to break the law, he said. He said he had instructed the Police Commissioner and the AFM commander not to tolerate any law-breaking and action would be taken against violations.
No hunting before Tuesday would be allowed and the rules for the season opening on Tuesday had to be respected.
Enforcement, he said, should not be only in the hands of the police but all genuine hunters. He had acted to stop hunting when the law was broken, and would be prepared to do so again.
It had been noted, he said, that most law-breakers were youths. If they broke the law, it would be useless for their parents to plead because they could not afford the fine, or their children had lost their jobs, he said. Indeed, fines would get heavier if needed.
"The hunting community has to control and name those who abuse," he said.
"It will not be business as usual for hunters".
He said that there was need for dialogue between hunters and environmentalists. People, he said, were fed up of their Punch and Judy attitude. Hunters had come close to losing everything, but environmentalists too needed to see the need for balance and he looked forward to it taking place.
Replying to questions, Dr Muscat insisted that the Labour Party had not campaigned in the referendum and focused totally on the local council elections. He had personally said what his position was, but had not campaigned.
Dr Muscat said he could not guarantee that hunting laws would not be broken. That guarantee could not be given even if No had won. But the onus now was on the hunters. They needed to identify those who broke the law, or risk everything.
BUSUTTIL - PEOPLE HAVE DECIDED FOR THE POLITICIANS
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil in a message said the people had decided for the politicians.
He welcomed the maturity shown in the referendum and said the outcome had to be respected by all.