Updated 8.30pm, adds FKNK statement
The government has approved the opening of a spring hunting season for quail despite concerns over lack of police resources and the COVID-19 outbreak.
In a statement in the evening, the government confirmed the opening of the season, reported by Times of Malta in the afternoon.
Cabinet sources had told the newspaper that decision had been made for the season to shoot down up to 5,000 quail to open on April 10 until the end of the month.
On Wednesday, the government’s consultative committee on hunting voted to approve a proposal to open a season, despite the health authorities advising people to stay at home to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Cabinet sources said the season had been given the green light, but health directives would have to be followed.
“If you are vulnerable, or over 65, then you will still not be allowed out. And groups of more than three will also not be allowed,” a minister said.
In its statement, the government confirmed that this was the case and said that the license of such persons had been withheld.
It said that people under quarantine and others ordered to be in isolation were also being prohibited.
Breach of health regulations would carry the same fines that had been set. If hunters were in groups of four or more they would be fined €100 each, if someone in quarantine was caught hunting they would be fined €3,000 and if someone who should be in isolation was caught hunting he or she would be fined €10,000.
All this, the government said, would remain valid unless a different direction was given by the health authorities.
The government appealed to hunters not to hunt illegally and to obey the instructions given. It warned that abuse would not be tolerated.
On Wednesday, Times of Malta quoted senior police sources who voiced concerns that opening a spring hunting season in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic would put "unnecessary strain" on already-stretched police resources.
The police’s Administrative Law Enforcement unit, whose members normally watch over hunters, have all been ordered to help enforce quarantine and other health directives issued by the authorities in recent week.
In a statement Alternattiva Demokratika chairperson Carmel Cacopardo described the decision as highly irresponsible.
"All the good measures taken to control the coronavirus pandemic in Malta are now being undermined by the government itself. Police, usually about 40 officers, will now have to monitor hunters instead of doing vital public health duties such as monitoring those who are in quarantine."
He said that while the people were being told to stay at home as much as possible except for essential errands, the government chose to insult the people by opening the anachronistic spring hunting season for the favoured few.
"Does government now expect people to submit to the directives issued by the health authorities? Goodwill has been betrayed," Cacopardo said.
The hunters’ federation appealed to members to observe all regulations as well as any advice issued by the health authorities "strictly and rigorously". No illegality would be tolerated, it said.
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