19th Mar 2018

Malta taken to EU court over finch trapping

  • It is now expected that the 2015 finch-trapping season will be suspended (Photo: Antoine Borg Micallef)

The European Commission announced on Thursday (24 September) that it will be referring Malta to the European Court of Justice over the government's decision to allow finch trapping.

The case has been brought forward following the Maltese government's decision to allow the live capture of seven species of wild finches as from 2014.

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The capture and possession of these seven species is prohibited under the EU Birds Directive. But Member States may apply for a derogation to allow bird trapping in the absence of satisfactory alternative solutions, and only if this is used to target a small number of birds under strict supervision.

The EC issued a preliminary warning on 16 October 2014, four days prior to the start of the finch-trapping season. The second formal warning, a reasoned opinion, was issued on 28 May 2015, in which Malta was given two months to regularise its position.

Ironically, a government-appointed consultative body on hunting had recommended the opening of a finch-trapping season for autumn 2015, just one day before the EC issued this warning.

Further to this second warning, the Maltese government had until 28 July to submit a justification for its opening of a finch-trapping season in autumn 2014.

According to the European Commission, "Malta has replied and contested the Commission's analysis. Since Malta has not committed to end finch trapping, the Commission has, therefore, decided to refer Malta to the Court of Justice".

When Malta acceded to the European Union, it negotiated a transitional period to phase out trapping by 2008. Despite this, the current Labour government reintroduced the trapping of finches in 2014.

Along with Malta, Italy also faced the European Court of Justice after receiving a second warning from the Commission on bird trapping. However, the Italian government banned all forms of bird trapping on 22 July 2015.

Maltese Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella, has repeatedly called on his country to end finch trapping and abide by EU regulation.

It is now expected that the 2015 finch-trapping season will be suspended by an interim court junction pending a resolution of the case.

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