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Join Spring Watch Malta to fight against illegal bird hunting

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  • Join Spring Watch Malta to fight against illegal bird hunting

    BirdLife Malta is calling for volunteers to join our Spring Watch conservation camp this April.

    What is Spring Watch Malta about?
    Spring Watch Malta is a conservation camp that forms an integral part of BirdLife Malta’s fight against illegal spring hunting. This camp is organised during the peak spring migration period in Malta with the aim of curtailing illegal hunting activity and collecting data on bird migration. This is no relaxed holiday, but a serious conservation effort!

    Malta and migration
    Malta is situated on one of the main migratory flyways Europe’s birds use to reach their breeding grounds in mainland Europe. 398 bird species have been recorded over the islands of which around 170 occur annually. In the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Malta serves as an important resting spot for tired raptors and other bird species – however many birds find persecution from illegal hunters and trappers instead of shelter.

    Migration and the spring hunting problem
    Spring is the season Europe’s birds return from their wintering grounds to breed and this is why spring hunting is forbidden throughout the EU under the Birds Directive.

    After joining the EU in 2004, Malta continued to permit spring hunting. Several warnings by the Commission that this could result in legal action were ignored, and Malta was therefore taken to the European Court of Justice and found guilty of opening a spring hunting season in 2004,5,6,7. No season was opened in 2008,9 and they were two fantastic years for Malta’s breeding birds.

    However, in 2010 Malta opened a one week spring hunting season and adopted legislation making longer future seasons with larger bag counts possible. The Commission last October renewed legal action against Malta over the spring hunt, to which Malta’s Prime Minister reacted by stating that Malta is ‘prepared to go all the way’ for spring hunting – even if this means the country must pay fines.

    The hunting lobby is already vocal in their demands for a 2011 spring hunting season. Season dates have yet to be announced.

    BirdLife Malta intends to monitor and document the extent and impact of spring hunting through Spring Watch - an important part of the campaign against this unsustainable and illegal practice.

    What does the camp consist of?
    Illegal hunting surveillance and bird migration monitoring are the two main elements forming the camp. Every day our teams leave their hotel early in the morning, heading out into the countryside to keep watch over birds leaving the islands for Europe. This watch normally lasts a few hours, after which teams return to the hotel. In the afternoon teams again head out into the countryside to watch over birds coming to the islands to rest. This watch normally lasts until dusk.

    On exceptional migration days watches may last longer than usual, and when rare birds visit the islands a 24 hr watch may be organized to protect these prized birds from illegal hunters.

    How long does the camp last?
    The camp starts on the 10th April and lasts for 2 weeks ending on the 24th April. Volunteers may come for one or two weeks depending on their availability and the flight schedule.

    Join Malta Spring Watch and help us in our aim to stop the unsustainable and illegal hunting of protected migratory birds.

    Email or visit for more information.

    For more info about Birdlife Malta visit – or join our Facebook group

  • #2
    Originally posted by BirdLifeMalta View Post
    What is Spring Watch Malta about?

    BirdLife Malta intends to monitor and document the extent and impact of spring hunting through Spring Watch - an important part of the campaign against this unsustainable and illegal practice.

    I am a passionate conservationist and, to some extent, admire the efforts of various anti-hunting groups in Malta.

    BUT, what progress is being made? Calling for volunteers and recording the offences against nature is all very well, but where exactly are we going with this offensive (or, deffensive)? I have voiced my opinion before that the presence of "anti-hunting" factions is actually exacerbating the situation in that the hunters/shooters/morons are just treating the whole scenario as a game.

    Unless there is some sign of progress in this matter then support will begin to wain.

    I hold out very little hope. There needs to be a much more "pointed" campaign against these people, but from my experiences in Portugal this is not likely to happen.



    • #3
      Hi Colin,

      Thanks for your interest in the situation in Malta.

      Things have been improving over the years. With regards to spring BirdLife
      Malta and our partner's lobbying has paid off and the Commission has taken
      action against the illegal spring hunt. While the case was ongoing in 2008
      and 2009 no spring season was opened and these were two amazing years for
      Malta's breeding birds. There were many benefits but perhaps the most
      significant was the return of raptors to Malta, with Common Kestrel breeding

      It's not only Malta's birds that benefited as while Spring Watch runs
      BirdLife Malta receives far fewer shot protected birds than it used to
      receive in 2007 and previous years, when Spring Watch did not run.

      Spring Watch forms part of BirdLife Malta's campaign against illegal
      hunting. There is also year round surveillance and monitoring of
      illegalities, awareness raising amongst the Maltese population, and a lot of
      lobbying of both the Maltese government and the Commission.

      Spring Watch is an important part of this campaign as it provides much
      needed input during the peak migration periods when BirdLife Malta needs as
      many people helping out as possible.

      Regarding the future, look at Sicily - it was much the same as Malta not so
      long ago. Persecution of protected species was rampant, enforcement weak. A
      lot of effort was put into bettering the situation and today the
      improvements are tangible. Eagles breed there, Griffon Vultures have been
      reintroduced and are doing well, and persecution of protected birds has
      decreased monumentally. It took some time and doing but the situation is now
      much better.

      Here in Malta the situation is improving - we still have a long way to go
      but we will get there. International volunteers help by joining the camps is
      important and making a difference.