The Wild Birds Regulation Unit was established within the Parliamentary Secretariat for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights following Government’s decision in May 2013 to centralise the relevant regulatory functions pertaining to implementation of the Conservation of Wild Birds Regulations (S.L. 549.42) and related subsidiary legislation, and to oversee and drive the implementation of Government policy in relation to sustainable hunting governance and wild birds conservation. On the national front, the Wild Birds Regulation Unit was tasked with:
• Implementation of a sweeping reform of the relevant legislation concerning hunting and live- capturing to ensure simplification, greater effectiveness, safeguarding the rights of all citizens including hunters and live-capturers, as well as ensuring enforcement and compliance;
• Coordination of the work of the necessary institutional structures, including Ornis Committee, as well as liaison with the Police, Customs, Environment and Resources Authority and other entities to ensure adequate implementation and enforcement of applicable legislation on the ground;
• Centralisation, simplification and streamlining of licensing processes and provision of a one-stop-shop service to hunters and live-capturers;
• Coordination of enforcement effort;
• Promotion of awareness and culture change amongst the members of the hunting community, based on the principles of sustainability and wise use of ecological resources;
• Delivery of training programmes for hunters and enforcement officers;
• Administering hunter and live-capturer education and examination programmes;
• Compilation of statistics and data quality control;
• Commissioning and implementing the necessary technical studies and reports;
• Issuance of various licenses and permits and control over compliance with the license conditions;
• Ensuring continuous engagement and liaison with hunting organisations, environmental NGOs and members of the hunting and live-capturing community;
Within the domain of international and EU policy concerning sustainable hunting, the Unit has the following main functions:
• Ensuring compliance with the provisions of EU and international Acquis concerning conservation of wild birds, including but not limited to the provisions of the EU Birds Directive, Bern Convention, Bonn Convention and other relevant EU and international instruments;
• Ensuring correct implementation of spring hunting and autumn live-capturing derogations, as well as all other relevant derogations as decided by Government;
Coordination of the preparation and timely submission of the relevant derogation and other reports, monitoring policy implementation and maintaining the required statistics;
• Dealing with any open and potential infringement procedures, including EU Pilot procedures, ongoing ECJ case;
• Liaising with the relevant national, EU and international officials and performing other related functions as necessary.
The Unit is structured around three Branches:
The Specialist Enforcement Branch coordinates all enforcement-related operations of WBRU. This includes, amongst other, coordination with Police, Customs, AFM and other entities; surveillance and patrols; inspections at points of entry and in private residences, input to prosecution processes and investigations; provision of expertise in relation to Court proceedings, coordination of certain aspects of licensing and compliance processes, administrative fines system, compilation of enforcement statistics and reports, administration of stuffed birds registration system, liaison with foreign enforcement entities (e.g. Europol, IMPEL, Italian Corpo Forestale, etc) and other related duties. Over the past 3 years, the Branch achieved drastic reduction in incidence of bird-related crime in Malta.
The Special Initiatives and Customer Care Branch deals with the Unit’s main clients (circa 13,000 members of the hunting community), handles requests and complaints, acts as front office for one-stop shop regulatory functions (both in Malta and through separate office in Gozo), manages agreements with the FKNK and Birdlife Malta concerning Tal Bosk and Tal Baghal farmhouses in Buskett, species reintroduction projects and other initiatives. This Branch, amongst other achieved a major quality leap in regulatory awareness amongst the hunting community, which in turn translated into improved compliance with regulations.
The Policy Branch is responsible for providing input to the formulation of government plans, policies and regulations concerning conservation of wild birds. The Branch also administers licensing and other regulatory processes (e.g. general hunting, live-capturing licenses, special licenses for derogations, taxidermy licenses, bird ringing licenses, etc), administration of licensing databases and telephonic game reporting system, compilation of statistics and reports, liaison with EU and international bodies, participation in international policy fora, administration of hunter education and examination procedures, dealing with infringement procedures, coordination of funding for conservation projects, commissioning and implementing scientific studies and other related activities. This Branch is behind implementation of major regulatory reforms that brought about greatly increased protection for wild birds in Malta.