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BirdLife welcomes ECJ decision on spring hunting in Malta


10 Sep 2009


Health & Consumers
Sustainable Dev.

10th September 2009, Malta & Brussels – In a verdict delivered today, the European Court of Justice (ECJ, case C-76/08) declared that Malta has breached European law by allowing spring hunting of Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur and Common Quail Coturnix coturnix in the years 2004-2007.

BirdLife International and BirdLife Malta welcomed the ruling as it shows that this practice jeopardizes the conservation of these species, which have been classified by BirdLife as being in unfavourable conservation status in Europe. As a consequence, BirdLife concludes spring hunting has to end permanently. Hunting in autumn can continue for these and 30 other species in Malta, under certain conditions laid out in the EU Birds Directive. [1]

BirdLife International [2] and BirdLife Malta had submitted a complaint to the European Commission on Malta’s insistence on spring hunting in 2005. “This ruling is good news for millions of European birds, including Turtle Dove and Quail that cross Malta every spring on their dangerous migration back from Africa. Once again we have an example how the EU Birds Directive can help our common natural heritage”, said Konstantin Kreiser, EU Policy Manager at BirdLife International in Brussels.

“Malta needs to come in line with the Birds Directive and ban spring hunting. At the same time, as we have said many times before, Maltese hunters have every right to continue their practice during the autumn hunting season within the parameters of the law, and respecting the list of huntable species” said Joseph Mangion, BirdLife Malta’s President.

The Maltese islands are located on an important bird migration route in the Mediterranean. A recent study analysing ring recoveries in Malta, showed that birds originating from a minimum of thirty-six European countries have been recorded migrating over Malta. [3]

At the same time, conservationists across Europe remain concerned about illegal hunting of protected species in Malta (like raptors and herons), and a lack of adequate police enforcement.

“The ALE, the Maltese police unit dealing with illegal hunting, is heavily under-resourced and struggles to keep up with the scale of illegalities. We expect the Prime Minister to use this Court Ruling as an opportunity to now focus on clamping down on illegal hunting - which has tarnished Malta’s reputation over the years”, concluded Mr Mangion.

This year BirdLife Malta will run its annual international raptor monitoring camp between 12 September and 4 October. Maltese and international ornithologists join this camp with the express aim collect data on bird migration, and to curtail illegal hunting activities by informing the Maltese police force where needed, while respecting any hunting activities that stay within the legal framework.



Konstantin Kreiser, EU Policy Manager at BirdLife International, + 32 2 280 08 30,

Herlinde Herpoel, Media and Communication Manager at BirdLife International, +32 494 542 844,

Tolga Temuge, BirdLife Malta Executive Director, +356-9946-8514,

Geoffrey Saliba, BirdLife Malta Campaigns Coordinator, +356-7905-9501

Notes for the editor

[1] The European Commission had taken Malta to Court in January 2008, arguing Malta did not comply with the EU Birds Directive, since it had allowed spring hunting of the mentioned two species since EU accession in 2004.

Throughout the EU Birds Directive bans hunting of birds during their breeding period and during their spring migration back from Africa. Member States can apply derogations to this under certain conditions..

Now the Court concluded, that spring hunting as it was carried out since 2004 has not complied with these conditions.

Already in 2008 the Court had, requested by the European Commission, issued an “interim measure” ordering Malta not to open a spring hunting season ( In 2009 the government of Malta then decided on its own initiative to wait until a final ruling was given. BirdLife sees this as a clear sign that the government will from now on respect the Birds Directive and never open spring hunting again.

[2] BirdLife International is a global partnership working together for birds and the environment. It promotes sustainable living as a means of conserving birds and all other forms of biodiversity and is the leading authority on the status of birds and their habitats. Over ten million people support the BirdLife Partnership consisting of over one-hundred non-governmental conservation organisations and local networks. Visit BirdLife’s European Division:

[3] Raine, A.F. 2007. The international impact of hunting and trapping in the Maltese islands. BirdLife Malta, Malta


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