172Spring hunting and trapping is expressly forbidden by the EU Birds Directive (Malta is a member of the EU). However derogations (i.e. exceptions) from several provisions of the Birds Directive can be applied by any Member State if certain conditions are met. These conditions are set out in Art.9 of the Birds Directive.

Derogations can be applied for example in the interest of public health and safety (Art.9(1)(a), for scientific, educational and conservation purposes (Art.9(1)(b) or in a very strictly regulated way for other “judicious use” (Art.9(1)(c).

In any of these circumstances the derogation also requires that there be no other satisfactory solution.

After joining the EU in 2004 the Maltese government allowed spring hunting and trapping of Turtle Dove and Quail for three consecutive years. This was stopped following the interim measure issued by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which ordered Malta not to open the spring hunting season in 2008. They did not comply and have opened spring hunting seasons every year since

On 10 September 2009, the ECJ ruled that by allowing spring hunting in 2004-2007 Malta had failed to comply with the conditions for a derogation and, accordingly, has failed to fulfill its obligations under the Directive.

According to L.N. 87 of 2014, the spring hunting season will open between the 12th April to the 30th April, 2014, both dates included. If the set quotas of 11,000 Turtle Dove and 5,000 Quail are reached, the season will be closed before the 30th April 2014. General hunting law is covered by LN 79 of 2006.

It’s worth noting that on the first morning of this year’s ‘season’ over 1100 shots were recorded by BirdLife Malta and Spring Watch Team Members – this in a week when it was widely noted that there were actually very few migrants on the island.





Let’s help stop illegal hunting in Malta


Wildlife crime is rife on Malta. Leaving aside that spring hunting is illegal under EU law anyway, there are – on the face of it – quite strong rules governing hunting in Malta so why is that? These rules might be sufficient to at least offer some protection to migrant birds in Malta but they are observably routinely ignored. Shooting butts litter the countryside, protected species are shot, bag limits ignored, and kills barely recorded until right at the end of the season in case the ‘quotas’ are reached too quickly.

Consider that in 2014 around 10,000 hunters were licenced for the Spring 2014 season, and that some hunters don’t bother to apply for licences anyway: it’s clear that huge numbers of birds are illegally shot/shot at each spring.

The information below is supplied to all monitors who attend BirdLife Malta’s Spring Watch Camps and is posted here with their permission.


  • Legal age is 18.
  • Only hunters who applied for the special spring hunting license
  • The licensee is required to carry on his person the Spring Hunting License, a mobile phone, the Carnet De Chasse booklet and a pen whilst hunting



  • Only two species may be shot: Turtle Dove and Common Quail
  • Two birds per hunter in one day
  • Four birds per hunter for the whole season
  • Hunters are required to fill in the Carnet de Chasse and to send an SMS to the police giving notification of each dove or quail shot before leaving the hunting zone.



  • Hunting season is from the 12th April until 30th April inclusive
  • It is illegal to hunt earlier then 2hrs before sunrise.
  • It is illegal to hunt after 14:00 on weekdays, Monday to Friday.
  • It is illegal to hunt after 12:00 on Saturdays.
  • It is illegal to hunt after 12:00 on Sundays and Public holidays.



  • It is illegal to hunt or possess a firearm or trapping equipment in a Bird Sanctuary (e.g. Buskett, Girgenti, Salina).
  • It is illegal to hunt at sea (i.e. on board a seacraft).
  • It is illegal to hunt within 50m of a main road.
  • It is illegal to hunt within 50m of the delineated boundaries of all beaches
  • It is illegal to hunt within 200m of a residential area.



  • It is illegal to use live/fake decoys of any birds except for Turtle Dove or Quail.
  • It is illegal to use an electronic lure (tape, CD, MP3).
  • It is illegal to have a shotgun capable of firing more than 3 shots in succession.
  • It is illegal to use a modified or/and unlicensed shotgun.



  • It is illegal to trap ANY species ANYWHERE, ANYTIME using ANY TRAPPING METHOD (clap nets, mist nets, cage traps, trabokki) or devices (electronic tape lure, artificial lights).
  • Unattended nets on a trapping site are considered illegal.



Report illegal hunting to the police on 119 and BirdLife Malta on 21347644/6.

If you find an injured bird please call 72955697 as BirdLife Malta provide an injured bird recovery service



Page updated April 2014.

Any comments, corrections, additions? Please let us know.


  1. Peter Ellis
    July 15, 2014

    How can they be so cruel? Beautiful defenseless migrating birds – shot to pieces. They think they’re hunters? Hunting birds with high-powered rifles. They’re a disgrace. An affront to humanity.

    So sad. Malta has such a rich history. The extraordinary temples – Hagar Qim, Mnajdra – some of the earliest stone structures on the planet. The Hypogeum – an extraordinary mirror-image temple underground. The knights of St John, Caravaggio, 1st century Christian catacombs at Ta Bistra, Roman baths at Ghajn Tuffieha…

    All this history subsumed by the massacre of innocent creatures

  2. jean patmore
    April 24, 2014

    Well done Chris for being there highlighting this yearly carnage of the bird s on migration

    Wake up World Governments and stop sitting on the fence act now to stop the killings
    Birds are getting smaller in numbers as it is and if we allow this and other countries to continue shooting the birds on rout to nesting grounds future generations won’t hear the delight of bird songs in our forests and woods ACT NOW
    Bird watchers World wide let our voices be heard loud and clear united we could make a difference STOP THE KILLINGS
    Malta are flouting the EU rules on wildlife

  3. Nick Brown
    April 19, 2014

    Chris Packham is self-funding a week’s visit to Malta to highlight the massacre of migrants and will be posting daily video diaries on You Tube every night beginning tomorrow, Monday 21st April through to 26th.
    He’s doing this because no TV channel will cover the story! All strength to his arm I say!
    See http://www.chrispackham.co.uk/

    Nick (life member BL Malta)


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