Trapping is a non-selective method
Trapping with mist nets and limesticks is illegal both at national and European level due to the non-selective nature of these methods i.e. it is not possible to select which bird species gets caught. According to field surveys nearly half of the bird species recorded in Cyprus, i.e. 155 different bird species
, have been found trapped on limesticks or in nets, 78 of which are of unfavourable conservation status, including also emblematic species which everyone knows such as the Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos
) and the endemic Scops Owl subspecies (Otus scops cyprius
). To put these numbers into context, overall 400 bird species have been recorded in Cyprus, of which 280 are regularly occurring species.
It is large scale
The widespread trapping of birds with the use of mist nets, limesticks and calling devices in Cyprus contributes to large scale killing of birds, whereby hundreds of thousands of birds are killed every year. According to the field surveys that BirdLife Cyprus has been undertaking since 2002, in the last few years more than 2.5 million birds have been killed every year due to illegal trapping. Considering the multiple threats that birds face (climate change, habitat loss, intensification of agriculture etc.) it becomes clear that an ecological disaster is taking place.
It is prohibited across all EU
Bird trapping is prohibited both by the national legislation (Law 152(I)/2003) and by the European Birds Directive (Directive 2009/147/EC), as well as International Conventions (e.g. the Bern Convention of 1979 and the Bonn Convention of 1979). The use of mist nets and limesticks has been forbidden in Cyprus since 1974, but real enforcement never materialised. Both the national and European legislation strictly forbid these methods due to their non-selective nature and the large scale killing of migratory birds they contribute to. Additionally, the Cypriot legislation strictly forbids the trade and/or possession of trapped birds, either in restaurants or homes. Derogations from the Birds Directive may be granted, but only after a detailed justification and purely for reasons of public safety, scientific research etc.
Traditional hunting methods cannot be accepted as a valid reason for a derogation according to the European Court of Justice. On 8 December 2016 the European Commission announced that it is taking France to the EU Court of Justice for failing to address continued violations of the legislation on the conservation of wild birds, specifically for the continued illegal trapping of Ortolan buntings (Emberiza hortulana
). Spain has already been convicted by the European Court of Justice
, in case ‘C79/03 Commission of the European Communities vs Kingdom of Spain’(dated 9th December 2004) for permitting the use of limesticks as traditional practice for the trapping of song thrush species in the Valencia region. These cases put an end to the myth that other European countries have been granted derogations on the justification of traditional hunting practices.
It impacts Cyprus tourism
Illegal bird trapping in Cyprus has a negative impact on the tourism industry, since many concerned tourists choose a different holiday destination due to the bad image created for the country. According to a study done by an environmental Non-Governmental Organisation, Terra Cypria in 2011, the losses in revenue due to the bad reputation created from trapping range between 40 and 100 million euros every year!
Furthermore, the Game and Fauna Service estimated in 2010, that the ‘black market’ of this illegal activity is in the order of 15 million euros every year.
It is an inhumane method of killing
Trapping with mist nets and limesticks are among the most inhumane methods that can be used for trapping birds. The captured birds usually remain trapped for hours in mist nets or on limesticks, getting further entangled with their every attempt to escape. Any claims that all non-target bird species, i.e. not blackcaps, are released by the trappers are untrue, as it is very difficult to nearly impossible to untangle a bird from a net and particularly peel off a limestick without inflicting injury. Usually ‘by catch’ is discarded by the trappers.
Furthermore, birds suffer such a shock when they get caught, which in many cases proves lethal for them even if they have no apparent injuries.
It is no longer a tradition
Bird trapping may have been a traditional, small scale method for hunting birds in the past. However, the current activity levels reveal an industrialised, large scale and profitable business. Organised trappers, with the use of electronic calling devices, trap tens of thousands of birds every season and make tens of thousands of euros illegally every year at the expense of our common natural heritage. The Game and Fauna Service estimated in 2010, that the ‘black market’ of this illegal activity is in the order of 15 million euros every year.
Moreover, any activity that contributes to an ecological disaster cannot possibly be considered a traditional practice.