Inspections doubled in comparison with 2013, quadrupled in comparison with 2012
An 18-day spring hunting season for turtle dove and quail closed last Wednesday 30th April. Throughout the season, the Police and the AFM have collectively maintained a routine daily field deployment of 69 officers between 0500 hours and 1500 hours, which deployment was further boosted during early morning hours up to maximum of between 80 and 96 officers. A complement of 39 officers carried out daily patrols between 1500 and 2130, whilst on certain dates 4 officers were deployed on night patrols until 0500 to monitor significant roosts of protected birds. During the season, the police unmanned aerial surveillance vehicle (UAV) flew 25 sorties, ranging in duration between 15 and 30 minutes each, the majority of which were conducted during hours when hunting was not permitted. Wild Birds Regulation Unit officials provided assistance in surveillance and investigations on a 24 hour basis and have also carried out separate field inspections during the season.
This ratio of enforcement deployment per square km of countryside is by far the highest of any country in Europe.
During the season, officers carried out 2,105 physical spot-checks on individual hunters (circa 21% of all licensed hunters) to verify compliance with special spring hunting license conditions. These spot checks were performed in addition to 2,178 routine field patrols and inspections carried out by the ALE, and several hundred further inspections carried out by district police units as well as Gozo police.
The total number of inspections and spot checks carried out during 2014 spring hunting season is more than double the number of inspections carried out during 2013 season (2,504 inspections) and more than four times greater than the number of spot checks carried out in 2012 (1,072).
By the end of the season, 54 suspected offenders were apprehended. These persons are being charged with a total of 63 suspected offences that have been disclosed until 30th April, of which 52 offences were of minor nature.
Eleven other violations are considered to be more serious as these involved suspected targeting of protected birds, hunting without a license, or hunting within a bird sanctuary.
All cases are being prosecuted. In addition, police officers located and dismantled 11 illegal electronic bird callers and investigated several reports of suspected targeting of protected birds. However, evidence gathered through investigations so far was insufficient to identify and charge suspected offenders in court.
By comparison, during 2012 spring hunting season, the police disclosed a total of 64 offences, of which 24 violations were of relatively more serious nature, involving hunting without license, during unpermitted hours, in prohibited areas, or illegal trapping of protected birds. During 2013 season, 53 hunting offences, of which 18 relatively more serious, were disclosed. The fact that during 2014 season, fewer serious incidents have been disclosed despite the greatly increased enforcement surveillance underscores that the overall rate of compliance has improved. This is, in part, due to the greatly increased legal deterrents against bird-related crimes, which, following legal amendments introduced in October 2013 and in March 2014 are today amongst the harshest in the EU, as well as due to more intense and effective field surveillance and better coordination.