The so called Adaptive Harvest Management (AHM) mechanism and Terms of Reference for the Task Force on the recovery of bird species, in which the Turtle Dove features prominently, are priority topics on the European Commission’s “Expert Group on the Nature Directives” (NADEG) Agenda.
In simple terms the AHM sets a hunting bag quota for a species and when and if that monitored quota is reached the hunting season for that particular species is closed.
In 2021 NADEG consented to an annual bag quota of 2000 turtle doves for Malta, out of which, since then, Malta set the September (turtle dove autumn open hunting season) bag quota at 500 birds, which figure had never been taken during any September prior to 2021. However, on 11 September 2021, and now on 20 September 2023 the 500 mark was taken and so the turtle doves hunting season was closed on both respective dates.
In the Federation for Hunting and Conservation – Malta (FKNK) opinion this real-time monitored hunting season constitutes a small-scale AHM programme for the turtle dove, besides clearly substantiating an increase in the number of turtle doves migrating over the Maltese islands in recent years.
During both September turtle doves hunting seasons of 2021 and 2022, the FKNK carried out a voluntary survey amongst its members to determine the age ratio (juveniles to adults) of harvested turtle doves. The results on average showed that the harvested juveniles were 28% in 2021 and 40% in 2022 more than the adults, which juvenile to adult ratios of hunted turtle doves indicate positive gauges of the species sustainability. The FKNK therefore awaits the result of this year’s survey, now that the relative reporting is an added legal obligation of the hunters’ reporting real-time system.
Finally, hunters should be aware that whereas the turtle dove September 2023 hunting season is closed, the hunting season, including the respective reporting obligations, for other huntable species such as the quail, stays open.