Hunting is quite a popular hobby in Lebanon; it is common to hear gunshots and collect cartridges from the ground in the country’s forests and natural areas. Many types of hunting equipment can be bought locally. According to the Lebanon Eco Movement, there are 200,000 – 600,000 hunters in Lebanon; equivalent to 14% of the population – many of whom boast about their kill online.
Lebanon is located in the middle of three migratory paths shown in the figure below. Millions of birds from 400 species use these flyways.
Lebanon Eco Movement and the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) reviewed trophy photos of Lebanese hunters shared on Facebook between 2008 and 2013. They were able to identify 11,213 birds from 143 species (this is an average of 6 birds a day hunted over five years), a significant number of which were endangered, such as the Egyptian Vulture, the Lesser Spotted Eagle, the Red-footed Falcon, the White Stork and the White Pelican.
Hunting Law No. 580 that was passed in Lebanon in 2004 specifies the types of species it is permitted and prohibited to hunt. The law also requires hunters to go through basic training and obtain a hunting license and sets a bird hunting limit for each hunter. However, the decrees needed to properly implement this law were never issued and thus many of its provisions were not enforced. For example, the hunting law is not specific about the hunting seasons because it was expected that decrees would determine them. At the moment, the Ministry of Environment decides when to these seasons are announced.
In 2012, the Ministry of Environment supported by UNDP published a hunting guide. According to Law 580, hunters have to sit through an exam to obtain their hunting license. The guide is meant to be the main studying material for this exam. The guide includes information on hunting equipment and weapons (such as features, ammunition, cleaning, storage and safety), shooting skills, ethics and responsibilities, sustainable hunting, the hunting law and bird species (including those prohibited from being hunted). It is a comprehensive guide and includes all the important information necessary. Publishing the guide is an important milestone for hunting regulation in Lebanon. However, until the Lebanese hunter is made aware of and applies what is prescribed in this guide, the tragedy of the commons will continue to disrupt the journeys of Lebanon’s winged visitors.