BirdLife Cyprus sees ‘worrying’ rise in migratory bird kills
Published on: Amended:
Nicosia (AFP) – Conservation group BirdLife Cyprus reported a “worrying increase” in illegal bird trapping last year on Wednesday, accusing authorities of cutting fines for killing protected species.
“This unfortunately comes as no surprise, following a disgraceful relaxation of Cyprus bird protection law in December 2020,” the group said in a statement.
It has systematically monitored bird trapping levels over the past 20 years in the Republic of Cyprus and in a British military base area on the Mediterranean island.
Its fall 2021 report showed a sharp increase in levels of trapping with “mist nets” in survey areas compared to 2020.
Fall is when trappers target migratory birds, especially blackcaps and other migratory songbirds.
At the end of last year, activity using mist nets – which are barely visible and designed to entangle birds – was 132% higher than in fall 2020.
At Dhekelia, a UK base, mist netting activity increased by 46% compared to 2020.
Last year’s increase is similar to the past four years, but significantly lower than the peak of the 2016 trapping season, when 2.3 million songbirds were killed.
“These recorded trapping levels amount to just over 600,000 birds that could have been illegally trapped and killed in the fall of 2021 in the survey areas,” BirdLife Cyprus said.
“This disturbing upward trend in trapping activity comes after a series of retrogressive measures at the political level which sent a general message of decriminalization of bird trapping.”
He said the reduced fines from 2,000 euros (approximately $2,200) to 200 euros “are non-deterrent and non-punitive, and clearly not proportional to the profit one would make by illegally selling these birds.”
The illegal trade in migratory birds is estimated at 15 million euros per year, although it has been illegal for decades. Critics blame lax enforcement.
In a letter to the Cypriot government last October, the European Commission expressed its concern and urged Nicosia to reverse this amendment to the law and restore fines starting at 2,000 euros.
“The goal of the state should be the protection and conservation of our natural heritage, starting with the re-establishment of a strict and dissuasive law,” the group said.
“Cyprus is very likely to be brought before the Court of Justice of the EU for insufficient protection of migratory birds, as the letter from the Commission points out.”
© 2022 AFP