The new points system introduced for hunters and trappers who break the law will not serve as an effective deterrent against abuse, conservationists have warned.
The points system is similar to that used for motorists.
Under a legal notice issued earlier this month, hunters guilty of any of a number of offences listed in the conservation regulations will be subject to fixed points deductions from their hunting licence.
If they accumulate 12 points or more over two years, hunters and trappers will have their licence suspended for one year and will be barred from applying for any other related licences during the suspension period.
A problem in the law
However, the licence suspension will only be applicable to the offence committed, so a poacher caught shooting a protected bird would not have their trapping licences revoked, for instance.
A number of poaching offences have also been revised and are now subject to administrative fines rather than court proceedings.
“This is a typical example of how a potentially good law to help eradicate those that break the hunting and trapping laws continuously gets messed up,” BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana said.
Sultana noted that, in principle, a points system was a sound idea. But it would be no deterrent for points to be accumulated on a single licence instead of every applicable hunting or trapping licence (which include separate ones for hunting on land and sea).
The accumulation of 12 points for separate offences in hunting and trapping would not lead to suspension of a licence because the points apply to the individual licence and not to the person, he explained.
“This is a big loophole once again, along with the many others we have,” he said.
“A driver can get points for breaching driving laws on any vehicle and if they accumulate 12 points, the person cannot drive any car. In that case, the points system is related to the person and not the specific licence of each vehicle.
“This law is another symptom of a government that does not believe in nature conservation and protection.”
According to the legal notice, fines do not increase for repeat offenders, however, each separate offence is subject to penalty points.
How many points will each hunting offence cost?
Breaches of the rules are penalised as follows:
- Using an illegal bird caller – four points
- Using a portable cage trap that does not exceed 60cm on either side – three points
- Using more live decoys than permitted – three points
- Failure to comply to minimum cage dimensions – two points
- Failure to report birds fitted with scientific rings – four points
- Failure to declare every bird hunted or taken – four points
- Failing to submit information on bird ringing – three points
- Trespassing on private property – four points
- Hunting or trapping without a licence – three points
- Carrying a firearm out of its case within 200 metres of an inhabited area – three points
- Having a magazine capable of more than two shots – four points.