Portugal Bans Nocturnal Olive Harvesting Practice for Upcoming Season

While conservationists have hailed the move as a step in the right direction, many of them have urged the country's ministry fo agriculture to make the ban permanent.

By Julie Al-Zoubi
Dec. 7, 2021 11:25 UTC

The Portuguese gov­ern­ment has con­firmed that noc­tur­nal suc­tion olive har­vest­ing will be banned dur­ing the upcom­ing crop year after a national study con­cluded that the prac­tice resulted in sig­nif­i­cant bird mor­tal­ity.

Portugal’s Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests (INCF) have pledged to inten­sify olive farm inspec­tions between October 2020 and March 2021 to ensure grow­ers com­ply with the national ban on the use of mechan­i­cal har­vesters at night.

See Also:Millions of Birds Killed by Nighttime Harvesting in Mediterranean

The INCF stip­u­lated that the dis­tur­bance and mor­tal­ity of birds was a vio­la­tion of Portuguese law and warned that any­one flout­ing the noc­tur­nal har­vest­ing ban could face crim­i­nal charges.

While Joaquim Teodósio, head of ter­res­trial con­ser­va­tion at Portugal’s Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA) wel­comed the move as a step in the right direc­tion, he told Olive Oil Times that the prac­tice of noc­tur­nal olive har­vest­ing should have been per­ma­nently out­lawed instead of sim­ply intro­duc­ing a ban for the upcom­ing sea­son then recon­sid­er­ing the deci­sion on an annual basis.

The Ministry of Agriculture has­n’t issued a state­ment clearly for­bid­ding this prac­tice, which leaves it up to author­i­ties on the ground to inter­pret the law on a case-by-case basis,” he said. We’d like to see a firmer posi­tion from the min­istry, and a per­ma­nent end to this harm­ful har­vest.”

A study pub­lished by the INCF in 2019 found that mil­lions of song­birds were being killed every year in the Mediterranean basin as a result of noc­tur­nal suc­tion olive har­vest­ing.

See Also:Bans on Night Harvesting Have Alleviated Threat to Migratory Birds

It is esti­mated that in Portugal alone around 96,000 birds are killed each har­vest sea­son. Attempts to pre­vent the mass death of birds (includ­ing delib­er­ately scar­ing them) had been largely inef­fec­tive. Many olive pro­duc­ers have now rec­og­nized the neg­a­tive impact of noc­tur­nal har­vest­ing.

In October 2019, Andalusia’s provin­cial gov­ern­ment announced a tem­po­rary ban on noc­tur­nal har­vest­ing for the 2019/20 crop year. The same INCF study esti­mated that 2.6 mil­lion birds were being killed dur­ing the region’s har­vest each year.

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