The European Court of Justice will finally rule on bird trapping in Malta – a practice that dates as far back as the times of the Knights of the Order of St John.

Between 2009 and 2013, Malta was officially prevented under the EU’s Birds Directive from trapping the small, migratory birds that pass over the island twice each year. Trapping is outlawed by the Birds Directive, and can only be allowed under very specific criteria, which is why derogating from the law is not easy.

As reported by Malta Today online, when the country joined the EU 2004, the Commission gave Malta five years to phase out the trapping practice for seven species of finches. The hunters’ federation (FKNK) was expected to create a captive breeding programme, but this never even started.

The European Union’s court of justice is now on the cusp of delivering a fatal blow to bird trapping in Malta.

An opinion from Eleanor Sharpston, Advocate General at the European Court of Justice (ECJ), says the Court should rule that by opening a trapping season for finches, the Maltese government had clearly failed to fulfil its obligations to abide with the Birds Directive.

Sharpston said she is “entirely convinced that the present arrangements do not respect Malta’s obligations under EU law”.