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Cyprus

Parliament set to water down strict new hunting law

A bird stuck on a limestick

As the game fund opposes any softening in the new, stricter law on poaching and unlicenced hunting passed four months ago, parliament looks poised to approve significant relaxations following pressure from organized hunters, it emerged on Thursday.
At a session of the House environment committee this week, game fund head Pantelis Hadjiyerou told MPs that the new law is solid and argued against proposed relaxations tabled as a result of lobbying by hunters.
For the first time, Hadjiyerou said, one can go hunting without hearing the sound of illegal equipment that lures songbirds by mimicking their calls, while 1,500 new hunting licences have been issued following the introduction of the new law.
“These people are not new hunters, they hunted illegally without a licence in previous years,” he said.
The game fund chief said that since the law introduced steeper fines for poaching, 66 fines have been issued for a total €216,000, 62 per cent of which has already been paid with less than 20 per cent being contested in court and the rest still pending.
But deputies on the environment committee have introduced a legislative proposal aimed at watering down the harsh clauses of the new law, incurring the wrath of activist groups and the Greens’ deputy Charalambos Theopemptou.
Committee chairman Adamos Adamou said the proposal, sponsored by all committee members with the exception of Theopemptou, was originally submitted unofficially by the game fund.
However, it was subsequently amended to incorporate suggestions by MPs, including one to make it a crime to harass, obstruct or disturb a hunter during hunting.
Adamou explained that this clause was added in response to a request to regulate environmental activism, adding that similar clauses exist in other countries.
Another proposed amendment would give offenders fined over €1.000 the right to spread out payment over 6 or even 12 months, rather than the one month stipulated in existing legislation, and even offering a 10 per cent discount as an incentive for early payment.
The proposed legislative amendment also includes the reduction in the €200 fine for illegal possession of certain protected species, including songbirds.
Additionally, it is proposed that dog-training permits be extended from March to May, as well as the ability to possess hunted game throughout the year, instead of a limited window of time following the end of the hunting season.
In a statement, activist groups BirdLife Cyprus, Cyprus Friends of the Earth and Terra Cypria charged that the proposals are aimed at further relaxing the provisions of the law on birds, the ultimate goal being to satisfy a group of hunters and poachers, whose concern is anything but the protection of wild birds.
“These proposals completely ignore European law and bring Cyprus one step closer to being sanctioned by the European Commission,” the statement said.
The June 2017 legislation had come in response to criticism from the European Commission with regard to the Cyprus government’s apparent unwillingness to address poaching, in particular of migratory songbirds in the Famagusta and Larnaca regions, where it is most widespread.
Poachers in these areas routinely use special whistles to attract songbirds and limesticks and mist nets to trap them.


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