European commission investigating violations of the EU bird directive after Malta allows 5,000 turtle doves to be shot, says Karmenu Vella
Tuesday 3 May 201616.54 BSTLast modified on Wednesday 4 May 201613.45 BST
Malta should consider a temporary ban on the shooting of turtle doves which are being driven to extinction by hunting and other pressures, the EU’s environment chief has said.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) put turtledoves on its Red List of species threatened with extinction for the first time last October.
But after a referendum on the issue, Malta said that 5,000 turtle doves could be shot during the country’s two-week spring hunting season, which finished on 30 April.
Karmenu Vella, environment commissioner, said that the commission was already investigating Malta for violations of the EU’s birds directive and would go to court if necessary.
“I have also urged the Maltese government to consider a moratorium on the hunting of turtle doves,” said Vella, who is himself Maltese.
It was not immediately clear whether the commissioner’s appeal was communicated directly to government officials, or if he was merely referring to an interview given to Maltese media over the weekend.
Last week, the IUCN wrote to Vella urging action on a Maltese exemption from the law which allows quail and turtledove shoots. The conservation agency said it broke the birds directive’s rules which forbid hunting species that have an “unfavourable conservation status” or “very low population levels”.
The letter said: “In order to save the turtle dove from a real threat of extinction, IUCN has requested the Commission to apply an urgent moratorium on spring hunting of the species in Malta. This should remain in place until the sustainability and recovery of the turtle dove [populations] can be clearly demonstrated.”