The government’s consultative committee on hunting will recommend opening a spring season despite concerns about how this could impact efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
In a meeting on Wednesday evening, the Ornis committee voted to approve a proposal to open a season for quail from April 10 to April 30 in line with last year.
The final decision now rests in the hands of Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia.
If he gives it his stamp of approval, hunters will be allowed out to shoot from two hours before sunrise, to noon every day, and will be able to take down 5,000 quail.
Sources said that conservationists Birdlife and a representative from the Environment and Resources Authority voted against opening the season. But the three independent members appointed by government and the Ornis chairman Joseph Grech all voted in favour.
Earlier 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.
On Tuesday, conservationists said the government appeared to have already decided in favour of opening a spring hunting season for quail and said the Ornis committee would be "rubber-stamping" that decision.
Hunters have already come out in favour of opening a season despite COVID-19 restrictions requiring people to stay indoors where possible.
The law forbids groups of four or more from gathering in public and require vulnerable groups, including anyone aged 65 and over, to remain indoors unless they are buying essentials, attending a medical appointment, going to the bank or carrying out any urgent essential business.
While hunters do not tend to congregate in large groups, opening a hunting season risks complicating the public health effort by diverting police resources away from the effort to suppress COVID-19.
The police’s Administrative Law Enforcement (ALE) department, which normally oversees the hunting season, has in recent weeks been deployed to ensure quarantine and other life-preserving measures announced by health authorities are obeyed.
Sources told Times of Malta that currently, every member of the ALE department is working to enforce quarantine laws.