The Law No. 580 – organizing hunting System in Lebanon, which was issued in 2004, is one of the most egregious models for not applying the environmental laws after many years of their approval. Despite the issuance of all decrees of this law, the latest decree holding the dangers that may occur to a third party as a result of practicing hunting (Decree No. 11987 of 24 May 2014), it is not expected from the Hunting Higher Council to issue a recommendation to open the hunting season for the year 2015 – 2016, noting that the Council, which was appointed a few months ago did not hold meetings until last week, in a clear indication that the hunting file is not a priority for the Ministry of Environment. Who benefits from unregulated hunting in Lebanon? Why does the Ministry of Environment practice the policy of “burying its head into the ground”? And when will the moment of truth arrive, in which the Ministers of Environment and Interior announce that they are unable to apply the hunting law throughout Lebanon? Only dealers of arms, cartridges, and wild birds’ meat benefit from the chaos of the indiscriminate hunting of all kinds, of resident and migratory birds, in the absence of the judicial police’ serious decision, to carry out its duties, and apply the hunting law, alleging that security conditions in Lebanon are the main reason.
The Director General of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon, who has held the position of the representative of environmental associations in the Hunting Higher Council for years, says that the society which is the national partner for BirdLife International has found an ideal solution to implement the hunting law, which is in limiting hunting within specified Public areas in several Lebanese regions, owned by the municipalities. He added that they must be clearly defined and surrounded by guards, in order to ensure secure and controlled entry for hunters, and to ensure their departure with the allowed numbers of hunted preys, as provided by law, in a way that allows the punishment of the violators. Serhal is optimistic about the possibility to apply this idea after representatives from eight Lebanese municipalities signed a declaration last month, for the endorsement of responsible hunting, and full protection of migratory soaring birds, during a workshop entitled “Managing Responsible Hunting Zones Through Municipalities,” which was organized by the Migratory Soaring Birds project, funded by the Global Environment Facility, and executed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon. The cosigners of the declaration announced their willingness to be ambassadors of Hovercraft migratory birds, and role models who would be followed by other municipalities in various Lebanese areas, bearing themselves as leaders of change in order to pass the message of this declaration to the wider community of hunters, including those who are unaware of the plight that is faced by migratory birds. The announcement regarded that the establishment of customized Responsible Hunting zones in Lebanon is an attempt to achieve a balance between the needs of wildlife, and people’s needs, using the best available knowledge, in order to ensure safe hunting, in addition to the possibility of limiting it to the plentiful available numbers of preys within the site. The Responsible Hunting zones, however, are based on scientific studies, to ensure the hunters’ security and safety, and the prey species’ sustainability, through a series of precautionary measures and ensuring the proper management and the enforcement of the hunting law. Serhal emphasizes that the Responsible Hunting zones allow the hunting of preys within the legal limit, and under the local community’s supervision, which is represented by the local authority, the municipality. Also, the management within the responsible hunting zones relies on specialties like mathematics, chemistry, biology, ecology, climate and geography, to ensure the best results. The Responsible Hunting areas also contribute in reducing the losses in land biodiversity, taking into account the environmental principles such as stamina, natural geography, soil science and hydrology, in order to achieve a balance between the needs of wildlife and people’s needs. “The municipalities’ signature on this announcement is a very important step, since it joins the other voices demanding the application of the Hunting Law in Lebanon, which constitutes the first step in the enforcement of this law, which has not been applied since its ratification years ago.” Serhal added. The municipalities which announced their intention to apply this concept must issue decisions from their municipal councils in order to undertake the management of these zones. In the case where more than one municipality share the same scope of the proposed area; the decisions must be issued from all the concerned municipal councils. “As the responsible Hunting Zones should at least be 500 meters far from the residential areas, religious sites, public and private areas, protected areas, and the path of migratory birds, then these areas will be a safe haven for birds.” according to Serhal.
The expert specialized in ornithology Dr. Ghassan Jaradi confirmed that the Responsible Hunting site’s management ought to perform activities that lead to the best application of the hunting law, in order to ensure the least possible losses. Jaradi asked: Is the law applicable throughout the whole country? The law allows hunting, but not near residential areas and religious places. Hunting is also forbidden in the reserves and on the lands whose owners do not want them to be places for hunting, but all of this covers all Lebanese regions. ” Jaradi concluded that the smaller the area that is to be monitored, the more effective the control is. He added: the better the services, the more positive the outcome is on biodiversity, and the more focused the protection of endangered species is. The ornithologist asked: How could the hunting law be applied over all the Lebanese territory, and is this even possible? He then answered that the decision is up to the municipalities, who must specify an exact location, date, and time, to increase awareness among students, the public, and decision-makers. He also stressed on the importance of the management of the Responsible Hunting areas, because it helps to save the species, and it gives local residents the opportunity to participate in sustainable use. It also increases the sense of responsibility among partners in the land and the local community, and supports the ecological balance for wildlife.
Ms. Manal Abu Dagher from the Institute of Environment at the University of Balamand presented the maps that were prepared by the university regarding the responsible hunting zones in various Lebanese areas. Abu Dagher said, that based on field studies that were carried out by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon, in cooperation with a number of experts, the team of specialists at the university has identified the following eight proposed areas for Responsible Hunting in Lebanon: Menjez – Akkar District, Andaket – Akkar District, Alrowaima and Akroum – Akkar district, Al-Sharbeen- Hermel district, Al-Fakha – Baalbeck District, Anjar – Zahle District, Qaraoun – West Bekaa District, and Qaytouli and Roum – Jezzine District. Abu Dagher also pointed out that they have adopted practical methodologies that are internationally accredited, regarding the maps for responsible hunting zones. She added that they include a national data base that links hunted preys to Lebanese areas. She also recommended that the municipalities should be prepared to modify these maps based on the proposed modifications on the Lebanese Hunting Law, and added that these maps should be updated every five years, taking into account the land use system and the expansion of urban growth. And that the Responsible Hunting Areas must be stated in the law, which allows the possibility of applying them as well, and that once they are approved in that law, hunting outside these areas should be banned.
The head of Hosh Moussa Municipality in Anjar Garabet Bambukian announced the municipality’s willingness to establish and adopt the Responsible Hunting Zones, which constitute a gateway for the implementation of the Lebanese Hunting Law of 2004, and all its application decrees.
Types of Game birds in Lebanon
The Hunting Law in Lebanon (No. 580 issued on 25/2/2004) states that: “With the exception of game species, all birds and wild animals, whether resident or migratory, are protected throughout the year and it is prohibited to hunt them.” Game species that are approved by the hunting higher council include the following species of birds and wild animals: – Turtle Dove (Amount Allowed hunting: 10 gamebirds in every hunting trip) – Calandra Lark (Amount Allowed hunting: 50 in each hunting trip) – Turdus philomelos (Amount Allowed hunting: 20 in each hunting trip) – Quail (Amount Allowed hunting: 10 game in every hunting trip) – Common Quail (Amount Allowed hunting: 20 in each hunting trip) – Chaffinch (Amount Allowed hunting: 25 in each hunting trip) – Woodcock (Amount Allowed hunting: 5 in each hunting trip) – Anas platyrhynchos (Allowable Catch: 5 gamebirds in each hunting trip) – Rock Dove (Allowable Catch: 5 gamebirds in each hunting trip) – Chukar Partridge (one and in each hunting trip) The types of game animals in Lebanon include wild rabbits (Allowable Catch: 5 game animals in each hunting trip) and wild pigs (allowable catch Unknown).