2015 Maltese spring hunting referendum

A referendum on spring hunting was held in Malta on 11 April 2015.[1] Voters voted narrowly in favour of retaining the spring hunt, with 50.4% voting for the existing law to remain in place. Voter turnout was 74.8%.

Maltese spring hunting referendum
Do you agree that the provisions of the 'Framework for Allowing a Derogation Opening a Spring Hunting Season for Turtle Dove and Quail Regulations' (Subsidiary Legislation 504.94) should continue in force?
Response Votes %
Yes 126,434 50.44%
No 124,214 49.56%
Valid votes 250,648 99.01%
Invalid or blank votes 2,509 0.99%
Total votes 253,157 100.00%
Registered voters/turnout 338,450 74.8%


In August 2013 a petition to ban spring hunting was started by the Coalition for the Abolition of Spring Hunting, which consisted of BirdLife Malta, the Coalition for Animal Rights, the Democratic Alternative, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Friends of the Earth, the Gaia Foundation, Greenhouse, International Animal Rescue Malta, the Malta Organic Agriculture Movement, Moviment Graffiti, Nature Trust, the Ramblers Association Malta and Youth for the Environment.[2] Around 45,000 people signed the petition, triggering a referendum.[3][4]

Banner in favour of spring hunting in Naxxar road

Birdlife Malta said that the number of turtle doves declined by 9% between 1980 and 2015.[3] A 2007 study by the European Commission said that hunting was a low-level threat to the turtle dove (with loss of breeding habitat in the EU being described as high-level), and described spring hunting as particularly concerning.[5]

The Hunter's Federation (FKNK) and St Hubert Hunters (KSU) filed a petition at the Constitutional Court in an attempt to stop the referendum being held, saying it would violate the country's European Union treaty obligations. The FKNK said the petition had 104,293 signatures, making it the largest in Maltese history.[6] However, the court dismissed their claim on 9 January 2015, and also ordered the FKNK and KSU to pay court costs.[2] In 2009 the European Court of Justice had found that Malta was breaching its EU treaty obligations by allowing the spring hunt. However, successive governments passed legislation allowing it to continue.[3] Malta is the only country in the EU to allow spring hunting for recreational purposes.[3] Only two species, turtle doves and quails, are allowed to be shot, with quotas of 11,000 and 5,000 bird respectively.[3] This quota is set annually, based on how many birds were reported killed the previous autumn.[7] Hunters are required to report their kills to the government. According to the Maltese government, 805 turtle doves and 151 quail were reported as killed in the 2012 spring hunting season.[7]


The question voted on in the referendum was "Do you agree that the provisions of the ‘Framework for Allowing a Derogation Opening a Spring Hunting Season for Turtle Dove and Quail Regulations’ (Subsidiary Legislation 504.94) should continue in force?"[8]

Referendum results
Choice Votes %
  Yes 126,434 50.44
No 124,214 49.56
Valid votes 250,648 99.01
Invalid or blank votes 2,509 0.99
Total votes 253,157 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 338,450 74.80
Source: ECM


Hunter in Qalet Marku, Naxxar, in spring 2014

When the results of the referendum were out, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced that the spring hunting season would open on 14 April. He warned hunters to be careful, and he said they were being given a 'final chance' and no abuse will be tolerated.[9]

During the season, there were six illegalities, which is much fewer than in previous years.[10] A particular incident involved a Dutch boy being accidentally hit by pellets fired by a hunter.[11] On 27 April, a kestrel was illegally shot at, and the injured bird fell in the yard of St. Edward's College in Birgu. Muscat called this incident "inexcusable" and closed the season immediately. This decision was welcomed by the Coalition Against Spring Hunting, the Nationalist Party, the Democratic Alternative and BirdLife Malta. The pro-hunting lobby, consisting of FKNK and KSU, condemned the incident and called for those responsible to be brought to justice.[12] Birdlife Malta said that it reported 9 incidents and in addition, a total of 63 illegal bird callers were detected by CABS during this hunting season. [13]

Further readingEdit

  • Rudolf, Uwe Jens; Berg, Warren G. (2010). Historical Dictionary of Malta. Scarecrow Press. pp. 40–41. ISBN 9780810873902.
  • Mizzi, Simone (October 2013). "Abolish Spring Hunting Campaign" (PDF). Vigilo. Din l-Art Ħelwa (44): 10-12. ISSN 1026-132X. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 11, 2014.


  1. ^ Muscat, Caroline (10 January 2015). "FKNK, Coalition react as PM sets April 11 for hunting referendum". Times of Malta. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Historic referendum on spring hunting this year". Times of Malta. 9 January 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e Cacciottolo, Mario (11 April 2015). "Malta bird hunting vote: Tradition and conservation clash". BBC. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  4. ^ "Coalition for the Abolition of Spring Hunting established". The Malta Independent. 27 July 2013. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  5. ^ "Management Plan for Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) 2007 –2009" (PDF). Technical Report - 007 - 2007. European Commission. 2007. p. 23. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  6. ^ Update 3 - Hunters' petition carries 104,293 signatures - 'more than PN vote at EP elections' Times of Malta, 2 June 2014
  7. ^ a b "Malta's Report on the Outcome of 2012 Spring Hunting Season" (PDF). Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change. Government of Malta. pp. 5–8. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  8. ^ Cacopardo, Carmel (22 March 2015). "The 11 April vote: not against hunters". The Malta Independent. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  9. ^ "Muscat - Spring hunting season to open on Tuesday, 'final chance' for hunters". Times of Malta. 12 April 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  10. ^ "Kestrel shot at in Safi, dead cuckoo found at Mizieb, hunter filmed after curfew". Times of Malta. 25 April 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  11. ^ Sansone, Kurt (24 April 2015). "Dutch boy hit by shotgun pellets". Times of Malta. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  12. ^ "Reactions: Hunting season closed after shot bird falls into school yard - PN agrees, Yes campaigner attacks decision". Times of Malta. 27 April 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  13. ^ "Updated 5: PM closes hunting season after shot bird lands in schoolyard, SHout happy, FKNK dismayed". The Malta Independent. 27 April 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2015.