I hate writing letters to MP's/MEP'S. I'm not very good at
it. I digress and often stumble my way to the point (I guess you know that already though). So when I tweeted to MEP'S representing the East Midlands I was actually surprised and slightly daunted by the fact ONE asked me to email her with my concerns. So I did. Anyone who's ever asked their MP about wildlife/conservation concerns will know only to well the kind of "automated" response and not actually answering the question posed. Perhaps in recent years my MP being a Tory I've got used to it. However the response I got was really encouraging considering my initial 'tweet'. Is it because it's election time? I actually think it's not, please read the very full response I got back. OK, some of it has been lifted from Birdlife's website but I only know this as I did the same lol. It's actually what she has done that impressed me. Best response from a political figure I've had in a long time that's for sure.
Thank you for writing to me regarding the hunting of birds during the spring migration season in Malta.
Under the EU’s Birds Directive, it is illegal to hunt birds during the breeding and migratory seasons. However, Malta is making use of a derogation in the Directive, which allows exceptions to be made on the condition that there is no suitable alternative, that hunting is done on a selective basis, that only a small number of birds are killed and that these conditions are strictly supervised.
Unfortunately, this week the hunting lobby in Malta won a referendum in favour of continuing their derogation to the Birds Directive and the spring hunting of birds by only 2,200 votes. I hope that this incredibly close result will not stop conservationists from protesting spring hunting in Malta, and I can assure you that Labour MEPs will continue to campaign to end the illegal hunting of protected species.
During the Spring hunting season, many migrating birds rest in Malta on their way north to breed, but Malta is alone in the EU in allowing hunting of Turtle Dove and Quail, and trapping of Golden Plover and Song Thrush. Alarmingly, the Turtle Dove is almost extinct as a breeding bird in the UK, with bird lovers in the UK launching campaigns to save it, while it is being actively hunted in Malta.
Following a ruling by the European Court of Justice that too many birds were killed during the spring hunting seasons from 2004-2007, Malta developed a legal framework to implement the derogation. This was revised in 2010 following a formal warning from the European Commission that it still did not accurately reflect the conditions of the Birds Directive. However, given that the current framework allows over 10,000 registered hunters in Malta to obtain a spring hunting license, it is likely that far more than the legally permitted 16,000 birds are being shot. Birdlife Malta also has a number of concerns relating to the poor implementation of the legal framework, including that hunters are using the opportunity to illegally shoot other species, including many that are severely threatened. In addition, EU Action Plans for both the Common Quail and Turtle Dove (the two birds which Malta allows hunting of during spring) state that the two species are in decline and have an ‘unfavourable conservation status’.
Let me assure you that I fully share your concerns. The spring hunting of birds in Malta has a direct impact on bird numbers in the UK, as many of the birds that are targeted are those on route to their breeding grounds in Northern Europe. It is precisely because birds do not stay within national boundaries that we need EU-wide law regarding the hunting and capture of birds, and, like you, I also feel the European Commission has a responsibility to ensure the law is fully respected.
The European Commission is aware of the problem. Earlier this year, Birdlife International, Birdlife Malta and a number of MEPs co-wrote a letter to the European Commissioner for the Environment, Janez Potočnik, requesting a meeting to discuss what could be done. Following the meeting, we still have a number of concerns and feel the Commission could be doing more to address the problem. I have therefore co-signed a second letter from Birdlife Malta to Commissioner Potočnik, outlining our continuing concerns and setting out what further action we feel needs to be taken.
At the beginning of last April I also submitted a written question to the Commission regarding illegal hunting of birds in a number of Mediterranean countries and asking what action the Commission is taking to ensure the provisions of the Birds Directive are fully enforced.
You may also be interested to know that during last year’s European Commissioner hearings, the Maltese candidate for the Environment portfolio, Mr Karmenu Vella, was questioned by Labour MEPs who wanted to ensure that, if he was appointed Commissioner, he would represent the interests of the EU and not just Malta. I was pleased to hear Mr Vella emphasise this in his hearing and reiterate that he condemns illegal hunting and will work to enforce the provisions of the Birds Directive across Europe. However, as part of his portfolio, Mr Vella has been tasked with carrying out an in-depth evaluation of the Birds and Habitats Directives. I can assure you that Labour MEPs will follow any revision of these Directives very closely and we will work hard to ensure that there is no watering down of vital environmental and wildlife protection.
Last year, I also submitted a parliamentary question to the Commission about the Birds Directive, asking what could be done to stop illegal hunting of birds. Their response was that implementation is the responsibility of Member States, but that they could investigate in cases where illegal hunting was alleged to be happening. The Commission has pledged to take steps to address poor enforcement of the Birds Directive, including investigations into cases of systematic enforcement failures, and future infringement proceedings.
Labour MEPs have also asked the Commission for regular information about the success of their new enforcement drive, and I hope that we will manage to make progress at EU level by closely monitoring the progress of the Commission.
I hope this has reassured you that Labour MEPs feel strongly about this matter and that we will continue to do everything we can to push the Commission to ensure Malta is fully respecting the provisions of the Birds Directive.
I hope you this information addresses your concerns but if you have further questions on this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Glenis Willmott MEP
WHAT DO YOU THINK?