New Notices to mariners linked to the protection of breeding seabirds

Photo: Joe Sultana

Following scientific assessments carried in relation to seabirds in Malta, the Environment and Resources Authority, ERA, worked with other relevant entities to protect the said birds through a number of measures which have now come into force.

The Second Assessment of the Status of Seabirds in Malta, published by ERA in 2020, has shown that the status of the three main breeding seabird species in Malta is good.

Current data indicates that the populations of the Mediterranean storm-petrel, il-kanġu ta’ Filfla, and the yelkouan shearwater, il-garnija, appear to be stable, with possible increases in the latter, which may be attributable to either an increased monitoring effort or conservation measures, or both. The Scopoli’s shearwater, iċ-ċiefa, also appears stable.

Photo by: Joe Sultana

The breeding populations of seabirds in Malta are susceptible to noise, light and other disturbances, some of which may be caused by selected activities around nesting locations. Such disturbance is known to affect adult and young birds inside the nest, impacting their survival rates and potentially leading to colony abandonment.

ERA said that the assessment process was also made possible with EU and national funding, including scientific research conducted through various projects.

Through the results of one such project, namely the the LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija Project, the Environment & Resources Authority and Transport Malta, in conjunction with BirdLife Malta and the Ministry for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning, worked together on the development and publication of Notices to Mariners strengthening further the protection to Malta’s breeding seabird populations.

The Notices were issued by Transport Malta following discussions with ERA, following consultations with industry stakeholders so as to secure an adequate balance in relation to adequate protection to our biodiversity and minimising socio-economic impacts.

The authority explained how the Notices to Mariners are linked with Natura 2000 sites protected by the ERA, and shall include updates to the existing Notice to Mariners at L-Irdum tal-Madonna, off l-Aħrax tal-Mellieħa, as well as, newly proposed Notice to Mariners at the following coastal marine areas:

  • Selmunett/Il-Gżejjer ta’ San Pawl
  • Area off Il-Majjistral Park
  • Area off Miġra l-Ferħa
  • Il-Ħnejja/Blue Grotto, off iż-Żurrieq
  • Santa Marija Caves, Kemmuna
  • Area off Kemmunett
  • Area off l-Irdumjiet ta’ Ta’ Ċenċ, Għawdex
  • Area off Id-Dwejra, Għawdex

ERA emphasised how the proposed notices shall contribute further to ERA’s efforts towards the achievement of good status of the seabird populations in Malta in accordance with the requirements of the EU Birds, the Habitats and the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directives; and shall support developments as related to the management of Malta’s marine Natura 2000 network.