Bird hunting: millions of songbirds at risk

Around the Mediterranean begins hunting for migratory birds - legal and illegal

A cuckoo in the illegal fishing net of a poacher in Cyprus. © Committee against the murder of birds e. V.
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Today, in many Mediterranean countries, the traditional hunting season starts with migratory birds. In Italy and France alone, more than 20 million skylarks, thrushes and lapwings were officially released this year, according to the Committee against Bird Slaughter. However, many of these species are considered endangered, in addition to protests bird conservationists against the fishing methods.

Only in the spring of 2013, biologists reported enormous fishing nets, which are used over more than 700 kilometers on the Egyptian coast for migratory bird catching. However, catching migratory songbirds has also enjoyed great popularity among the European Mediterranean countries. Tens of thousands of songbirds are caught every year, especially in Italy and France - although the EU Birds Directive actually forbids it.

Prohibited and yet approved

However, in keeping with traditions, some regions have a special permit, which they also use wisely. For example, the French government has authorized the catching of songbirds with lime rods, slings, nets and rock-drop traps. In Italy, thrushes and larks are caught in large nets that are hidden in beech hedges. These large-scale facilities are located in Lombardy and the Veneto along important routes and are approved by the Italian government.

The Maltese government has announced that it will again allow the capture of tens of thousands of finches and golden plovers with huge folding nets this autumn. The island state, which had pledged to ban songbirds when it joined the EU in 2004, is threatened with proceedings before the European Court of Justice.

Illegal bird trap on Malta in spring 2014 © CAB

Threat of protected bird species

"Many of the released species are endangered Europe-wide and over the last 20 years - like Feldlerche and Kiebitz in Germany - have decreased by more than half, " says Alexander Heyd, Managing Director of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter. "It is up to the European Commission to ensure the survival of these species in the EU and to stop these massacres. Unfortunately, that has not happened so far, "said Heyd. display

In addition to the officially released animals, countless other migrant birds are illegally killed by poachers and subsequently sold to butchers and restaurants. In Cyprus alone, the state hunting commission Game Fund, responsible for the control of poaching, is protecting sales from the sale of songbirds at 15 million euros.

Poaching as millions

"The catching and selling of birds is firmly in the hands of organized crime, " says Heyd. In Italy and France as well, the sale of poached trains as a "delicacy" is worth millions. For example, every year in the southwest of France, thousands of Ortolans - an endemic species threatened with extinction in Germany - are illegally caught and sold for up to € 100 per piece on the black market.

To counteract this, a team of international bird watchers under the leadership of the committee in S dfrankeich is on the move to shut down illegal fishing facilities with the police. Other uses of this kind are carried out by the Committee in Lombardy and Sardinia, Spain and Malta.

(Committee against the murder of birds, 01.09.2014 - NPO)