World Bird News April 2014

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Cousin Island Special Reserve - a success story

Legality of spring hunting under fire in Malta and Brussels

Legality of spring hunting under fire in Malta and Brussels

By Rebecca Langer, Tue, 15/04/2014 - 09:53 Picture John Murphy

In Malta, the illegal killing of birds is particularly widespread and with each hunting season, many protected birds are being shot due to lack of adequate controls and monitoring. Illegal shooting is even more harmful in spring, the most sensitive time for migratory birds returning to Europe to breed.

BirdLife Malta continues its fight against both illegal killing and the derogation to EU law allowing spring hunting. It recently launched a legal challenge to Malta’s decision to once again allow legal spring hunting by filing a Judicial Protest in Maltese courts. In the Protest, BirdLife Malta argued that successive Maltese governments have repeatedly failed to satisfy the conditions of Malta’s own National Framework Legislation, which stipulates that, for spring hunting to be considered legal, there must be no detrimental impact on the European populations of the species being hunted.

The Framework Legislation, which is based on flawed and unscientific data, fails to take into account particularly the unfavourable conservation status of Turtle Doves and Quail in Europe. Instead it refers incorrectly to the global conservation status of the species which is used as justification for spring hunting. Even worse, the opening of a hunting season in spring for Turtle Dove and Quail is dependent on the number of these birds reported shot and bagged by hunters in autumn, but these figures have been shown to be unreliable (see graph below). Indeed, they are based on self-reporting by hunters who have every incentive to under report their catch.

Meanwhile in Brussels, similar arguments were put to the EU Environment Commissioner, Janez Potocnik, on behalf of the 39 MEPs from 11 countries who signed a letter last month calling for the European Commission to take immediate action against any further derogations to allow spring hunting in Malta.

The hope is that appropriate action by the European Commission and a public referendum on the spring hunting legislation to be voted on in Malta, will finally help turn the page on what is still a black spot for migratory birds in Europe.

Italy put in hot spot as Commission calls to end live bird decoy use in hunting

Italy put in hot spot as Commission calls to end live bird decoy use in hunting

Hunting practices in Italy have been put under fire recently by the European Commission due to the common hunting method involving the capture of wild birds to use as live decoys. The trapping of wild birds is illegal under EU law based on a number of reasons including the non-selectivity of trapping methods used, lack of controls and the lack of information on the number of birds caught. Due to this violation of the Birds and Habitats directive, BirdLife Partner in Italy, LIPU, is calling on the Italian government to urgently remedy the situation.

Italy has defended its inaction by claiming that there are no alternativese to the practice so the decoys ar included in the exemptions to the Directive. The European Commission disputes this claim on the grounds that birds can be successfully hunted without the use of live decoys and captive bred birds can be used instead of wild caught birds.

The European Commission has made it clear that there is no future for this practice so Italy has the opportunity to minimise the adverse effects of a judgment from the European Court of Justice by providing an absolute prohibition to capture wild birds for use as decoys. LIPU is campaigning and gathering signatures to present to decision-makers asking for a complete ban on the use of live decoys. Such a ban would avoid the embarrassment of a judgment and bring Italy in line with EU legislation.

BirdLife Partners join forces against illegal bird killing in the Mediterranean

BirdLife Partners join forces against illegal bird killing in the Mediterranean

By Rebecca Langer, Mon, 07/04/2014 - 08:16

For migratory birds, illegal killing is an additional threat to their already dangerous and challenging journey. The EU Bird Directive protects the millions of birds who travel between their nesting and wintering grounds twice every year, by stating that only a few species can be hunted under certain conditions of timing and methods. In the Mediterranean, violations of this EU legislation are particularly widespread, exacerbating the substantial decrease in migratory bird populations over the past 40 years.

BirdLife Partners in Italy (LIPU), Greece (HOS) and Spain (SEO/BirdLife) have decided that coordinated actions and a common approach are required to address the problem, and have created the joint “Safe Haven for Wild Birds” LIFE + project. The project aims at changing the attitude of local communities in three migratory blackspots: Sulcis (SW Sardinia, Italy), Ionian Islands (Western Greece), and the South and East of Spain (Catalonia, Valencia and SE Aragon).

In all these places, illegal killing regularly takes place on a large scale, targeting species protected under EU and national law, as well as threatening the survival of the breeding populations of migratory birds. Unfortunately local authorities tend to keep a blind eye on poaching, or, as it has recently been the case in the Valencia Region, try to legalise it.

Within the project, the three BirdLife Partners have launched the ‘Leaving is Living’ campaign, which is aimed at explaining the right of migratory birds to migrate, as it is a crucial part of their life cycle, and that illegal killing of birds must stop. Supported by national celebrities, such as TV personalities, singers, actors and writers, the campaign released the first video of a series communicating the trauma inflicted on the natural world by poachers.

The selected blackspots are not the only areas where environmental crimes take place, so the Partners are also working on informing people and promoting active involvement in the issue. Diverse local events will be organised, targeting citizens and decision makers and a traveling exhibition will be set up in Greece and Spain. In local schools, workshops will raise students’ awareness about illegal killing and its impact on local and European biodiversity. Finally, national and international workshops will be held with Law Enforcement Agencies in each country to highlight the importance of these environmental crimes and to share experiences gained from other areas. Together these efforts will help ensure a safe passage and a future for migratory birds.

BirdLife participates in mainland China’s first international bird fair

By Martin Fowlie, Wed, 16/04/2014 - 20:59

Fifteen years ago, birdwatching was regarded as an unusual minority hobby in mainland China. Today, there are about 40 birdwatching societies with thousands of regular members all over the country, and numbers are growing rapidly.

BirdLife International was recently invited to participate in the first International Bird Fair held in Fuzhou, in Fujian Province in south-east China organised by Fujian Bird Watching Society and the Fujian Youth Environmental Protection Union. The event was a great success and was attended by an amazing 20,000 people from all walks of life.

“China has had an impressive growth in its economy over the last three decades and now we are witnessing an impressive growth in the conservation movement. Most of the birders are from the younger generations who are eager to learn more about nature and conservation. This will surely be a great support to the conservation movement of this big country and make the slogan of ‘Beautiful China’ come true”, said Simba Chan, BirdLife’s Senior Conservation Officer for Asia.

The fair was held at the Fuzhou National Forest Park, a popular birding and hiking area and one of the sites where modern ornithology took root in China. A team from BirdLife, together with BirdLife Partners RSPB (UK), Audubon Society (USA), Bird Studies Canada, the Wild Bird Society of Japan, the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, Burung Indonesia and BirdLife Australia took part in historic event, with 19 birdwatching or wild bird societies from mainland China, five wild bird societies from Taiwan and several other government and civil environmental organisations based in China.

To further emphasise China's interest in and importance for birds, a meeting on international conservation for youth took place on the same day as the festival at the Agriculture and Forestry University in Fuzhou. BirdLife Partners from the USA, Australia, Indonesia and the UK gave examples of conservation and education work from their own countries and emphasised the importance of cooperation along the flyway, something the BirdLife Partnership excels at and something that is needed to save the amazing spectacle of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway and the birds that use it.

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