MPs want to lower spot poaching fines
CONSERVATION groups yesterday expressed deep concern over an apparent move by lawmakers to relax provisions of the hunting law by introducing lower on-the-spot fines for audio devices used to lure birds.
The issue is due to be discussed at the House today.
BirdLife Cyprus, Terra Cypria and Friends of the Earth, warned that fines of a few hundred euros for the possession and use of calling devices would encourage poachers and bird trappers.
Current legislation provides for court fines of up to €17,000 and or three years in jail.
“These proposals effectively relax the current legal regime since spot fines of €350 to €500 certainly cannot have the deterrent effect of a court conviction,” said BirdLife Cyprus executive director Clairie Papazoglou.
The groups say such devices have become a real scourge, especially when it comes to thrush hunting in winter.
But they are also widely used – along with limesticks and mist nets -- by bird trappers who continue to kill thousands of songbirds – sold as delicacies known locally as ambelopoulia -- and other migratory species each year.
Bird trapping is an illegal yet highly lucrative activity that fetches offenders thousands of euros each year, judging from the scale.
Around 2.8 million birds were slaughtered in 2011, according to BirdLife Cyprus’ statistics -- the highest number since they started monitoring the situation five years ago.
A dozen of ambelopoulia costs between €50 and €80.
“Consequently, it is not a small offence that can be, for practical reasons, tackled with a spot fine,” a statement from the three organisations said.
Apparently, the amendment only refers the use of sound machines in hunting, but conservationists believe it cannot be enforced.
“The argument that a game warden can hand out multiple fines in a day because there is no need to go to a police station is not valid because there is a serious problem with the evidence,” said Terra Cypria executive director Artemis Yiordamli.
She said that if the device and the shotgun are to be confiscated then wardens would have to go to a police station to give a statement. If not, then authorities would not be able to make a case stand in court if the poacher refuses to pay the fine, she added.
The statement issued by the three groups said the amendment was being submitted by two MPs– AKEL’s Christakis Giovannis and DISY’s Kyriacos Hadjiyiannis – from the Famagusta district, one of Cyprus’ two bird trapping hotspots.
The other is Ayios Theodoros in the Larnaca district.
It would not be the first time that lawmakers from those areas tried to promote the interests of their voters.
In 2008, they even invited a representative of a group that calls itself Friends of the Limestick, to voice his views during discussion of a similar issue in parliament.
(Source: Cyprus Mail)
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