Brussels, 16 October 2014
Environment: Commission urges Malta to refrain from finch trapping
The European Commission is asking the Maltese government to reconsider its decision to resume traditional finch trapping. This practice is prohibited under EU legislation on the conservation of wild birds. The case concerns Malta's decision to apply a derogation to the EU Birds Directive, the cornerstone of EU nature and biodiversity policy, allowing the live capture (commonly known as trapping) of seven species of wild finches as from 2014. Member States may derogate from the requirement of strict protection only in the absence of other satisfactory conservation solutions and if the conditions for using such derogations are met. As no such justification exists in this case, the Commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice, urging Malta to comply with the relevant EU rules and to respond within one month confirming that this has been done.
In Europe, many species of wild birds in Europe are in decline, and markedly so in some cases. This decline disturbs the biological balance and is a serious threat to the natural environment. Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds aims to protect all species of wild birds that occur naturally in the Union. The Directive bans activities that directly threaten birds, such as deliberate killing or capture, destruction of nests and removal of eggs, and associated activities such as trading in live or dead birds, with a few exceptions. It also places great emphasis on the protection of habitats for endangered and migratory species, especially through the establishment of a network of Special Protection Areas (SPAs).
Article 9 of the directive provides limited scope for derogations from the requirement of strict protection where there is no other satisfactory solution, for instance in the interests of public health and safety or air safety, to prevent serious damage to crops, livestock, forests, fisheries and water, and for the protection of flora and fauna. Derogations may also be permitted for the purposes of research and teaching, re-population, re-introduction and for the breeding necessary for these purposes.
Malta was allowed a transitional arrangement in the Accession Treaty to phase out finch trapping, taking into account the time required to establish a captive breeding programme. The transitional arrangement expired in 2008.
The case concerns the live capture of seven species: chaffinch Fringilla coelebs, linnet Carduelis cannabina, goldfinch Carduelis carduelis, greenfinch Carduelis chloris, hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes, serin Serinus serinus and siskin Carduelis spinus.
For more information:
On this month's infringement package decisions, see MEMO/14/589
On the general infringement procedure, see MEMO/12/12
For more information on infringement procedures: