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Conservationists slam Malta over bird hunting during COVID-19 lockdown

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By Jack Parrock
Illustrative pictures of Malta
Illustrative pictures of Malta   -   Copyright  Matthew Mirabelli/ EU

Bird conservation groups are outraged the spring hunting season in Malta is being opened despite the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Maltese islands are a resting point for migratory birds crossing the Mediterranean.

Birdlife Malta sent Euronews pictures of a marsh harrier bird of prey, which they say has been shot illegally during this year’s three-week week spring hunting season.

Malta is allowing hunters to embark on quail hunts despite the coronavirus lockdowns.

“When it comes to hunting and trapping, government bend forwards, backwards, sideways, just like a jumping jack box in the hands of the hunting lobby," said Mark Sultana, chief executive of Birdlife Malta. 

"It is incredible how governments in the past and even the ones we have today are spineless." 

The Maltese government says that because people hunt alone in the field, the activity can go ahead at this time but hunters over the age of 65 are having their licenses withheld to keep them at home.

In 2015, the people of Malta voted narrowly in favour of allowing the spring hunting season despite the risk to migratory birds.

Hunters insist that they follow the rules laid out by the government.

“Hunting in spring in Malta is taking place under the strict criteria or the EU birds directive and in accordance with national law and you will never have as much enforcement anywhere in Europe," said Dr David Scallan, secretary-general at the European Federation for Hunting and Conservation.