Category Archives: News – Project Updates

Fourth Stakeholder seminar

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The 4th stakeholder seminar of the LIFE BaĦAR for N2K project was held at ERA premises on the 21st of November, 2017. The aim of the seminar was to inform stakeholders on the next steps, project outcomes after the final data analysis and to invite everyone on an open discussion on potential future conservation measures.  

A comprehensive presentation on the process of identifying and designating new sites under the Natura 2000 network was given by Christopher Cousin from ERA. The presentation provided information on the required steps for identification and designation; introduced the areas within which the MPAs will be identified through the LIFE BaĦAR project; explained management considerations and the use of conservation measures. The floor was then opened for discussion.

The stakeholders participated actively in the discussion and highlighted various issues of concern from their experience, in relation to the sustainable use of the marine environment, various conflicts between activities, and the ecological impact of certain activities. 

In conclusion, the stakeholders were invited to participate in the interviews being carried out under action A8, and to think about what could be done in practice to address the pressures and threats, indicating that ERA would be consulting the stakeholders again in future on potential measures.

The seminar was attended by representatives from Nature Trust FEE Malta, Civil Protection Department, Wild Birds Regulation Unit, BirdLife Malta, Sharklab- Malta, Ghaqda Koperattiva tas-Sajd, Federation of Amateur Fishing Association, Marsaxlokk Artisinal Fishers, Fishing Trawlers Owners Association, Police Department and Transport Malta, as well as project partners and ERA staff.

A great success – the LIFE BaĦAR for N2K conference

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A great success – the LIFE BaĦAR for N2K conference concludes on 14th of September

It has been three intensive days filled with expert knowledge, legal expertise and interactions among all participants of the LIFE BaĦAR for N2K conference on Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas in Malta.

The first day focused on Marine Protected Areas in general with an introduction to the Natura 2000 network in Malta, an overview of the LIFE BaĦAR for N2K project, and work done through the project, in particular the project surveys and results. Furthermore, three international experts presented an insight in the designation and management of Natura 2000 sites, related and relevant projects for the Mediterranean region, and the status and need for reference conditions of important habitats.

The second day presented different aspects of management from a local to a regional scale, evaluating management measures, issues within MPAs, as well as synergies between the applicable policies. Case studies on applied management measures in the Northern Mediterranean and from the Southern region were presented and similarities and differences in management approaches discussed.

On the third day of the conference, the focus was on monitoring – from plans to be implemented to expert advice on appropriate monitoring techniques for different habitats. In the afternoon, representatives from different stakeholder groups and authorities, project partners, participants from the general public and international experts came together to discuss in small groups different aspects of MPA management and monitoring, present their experiences and views and suggest measures and approaches that could be considered in a local context.

To conclude this experience, all participants were invited to join the conference boat trip on the fourth day to visit some of the local marine protected sites.

The conference presentations can be found on the following links:

Third Stakeholder Seminar

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The 3rd stakeholder seminar of the LIFE BaĦAR for N2K project was held at ERA premises on the 4th of July, 2017. The aim of the seminar was to inform stakeholders on the outcomes of the project surveys, which were completed in 2016, and to provide them with information on how these results will be used in the next step of the project – the identification of new potential Sites of Community Importance.

Dr. Julian Evans from the Department of Biology (University of Malta) explained the findings on the three habitat types considered under this project – marine caves, reefs and sandbanks. New, previously unknown, caves were found iPIC 1 SH seminarn high density along certain stretches of the coastline of the Maltese Islands. Information on cave assemblages was also obtained through the surveys, noting that there are changes in organism species composition connected in relation to the light gradient and water flow within these caves, which vary in terms of physiognomy.  Unexpected discoveries were also made during the surveys, such as the presence of offshore, deep water caves, found even at depths of 250 – 795 m, the deepest of which may have been formed during the Messinian (approx. 5 million years ago).

In relation to reefs, the location of coastal reef areas was already well-known prior to the start of the project, but information on reef assemblages was also recorded while surveying for caves. Surveys were also carried out in selected deep, off-shore waters within the Maltese Fisheries Management Zone (FMZ) for which no habitats data was available and within which new reef structures were identified, including ones supporting species such as corals that form biogenic frameworks. Other results presented included the observations of threats and pressures in the areas surveyed, which were mainly related to marine litter observed during the surveys. An overview of the presented results can be found here.

Image 2 SH seminar

The second part of the seminar focused on the next step of determining the areas which might be considered for future conservation under the Natura 2000 network. Furthermore, the sites which are of interest for identifying areas for future conservation were shown, based on the project results. The presentation can be viewed here.

The seminar was attended by representatives from Federazzjoni Sajjieda Dilettanti Malta, Federation of Underwater Activities Malta (FUAM), BirdLife Malta, Sharklab-Malta, the GAIA Foundation, Nature Trust, Transport Malta and the Civil Protection Department, as well as project partners and ERA staff.

Multibeam Echosounder Survey completed

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The aim of this integral part of the LIFE BaĦAR for N2K project was to map and characterise areas of interest within the 25 nautical mile Fisheries Management Zone surrounding the Maltese Islands to fill data gaps on deep sea bathymetry and seafloor composition, as identified during a prior analysis of existing data. The survey was carried out by the company Geomara, following the award of a tender issued by the Government of Malta’s Department of Contracts on behalf of the Environment & Resources Authority (ERA) (tender CT3105/2015).

The surveys commenced on the 28th of July 2016, and were finalised one month later, on the 28th of August. The first part of the work, the bathymetric survey, was completed on August 17th, and acquired acoustic data to map a total of approximately 130,000 ha of seafloor. The second part – sediment sampling for characterisation of benthic habitats – started on the 20th of August and was finalised on the 28th of August. A total of 50 sediment samples were collected from the areas previously surveyed by the multibeam echosounder. The bathymetric surveys revealed a diverse bathymetric profile, with underwater ridges, mounds, plateaus and canyons, with water depths varying from -186 to -1192 m.
The data collected will now be interpreted in conjunction with all the other data collected through the Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) surveys, with the final aim of identifying areas to be proposed for protection.

2016 Photographic Exhibition

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The photographic exhibition ‘Our Sea, Our Identity’ was held for the second time in August 2016, and visited by more than 2000 people. This year the exhibition was set up in Marsaxlokk, Birgu and Marsalforn, Gozo.
A public talk on Natura 2000 was also held at each location, during which officers from ERA’s Protected Areas team provided information on Malta’s marine Sites of Community Importance.

2016 Photographic Exhibition – upcoming

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The main aim of the LIFE BaHAR for N2K project is to gather data on the location, range
and conservation of 3 ecologically important marine habitats around the Maltese Islands,
namely: sandbanks, reefs and sea caves.
Following these surveys, sites that are considered a priority will be proposed for designation
as marine protected areas forming part of the EU Natura 2000 network.
An important aspect of the project is to achieve active participation by stakeholders by
providing a platform for discussion throughout the whole duration of the project.

This summer the public is being invited to an outdoor photographic exhibition at the following venues:
• Our Lady of Pompei Square – Marsaxlokk, from August 9th till August 15th, 2016.
• Grand Harbour Marina – Birgu, from August 16th till August 22nd, 2016.
• Marsalforn Bay – Gozo, from August 24th till August 31st, 2016.

Exhibtion advert 2016

Second Stakeholder Seminar

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The second stakeholder seminar was held on the 30th November 2015. The aim of the seminar was to update stakeholders on the marine surveys that were carried out by Oceana in June and July 2015, and provide an opportunity for stakeholders to provide their views and suggestions for the next set of surveys that will take place in 2016.  

A presentation was given by Dr Leyla Knittweis-Mifsud from the University of Malta – Department of Biology who, together with her colleague Dr Julian Evans, participated in the 2015 marine surveys led by Oceana, and provided their expertise and support.  The presentation gave an overview of the 2015 LIFE BaĦAR Project Survey Expedition, past research, anthropogenic impacts observed during the expedition, as well as future work in 2016. Please find presentation here

Following the presentation, views were shared on potential areas of interest for the 2016 surveys, as well as feedback on anthropogenic  impacts relating to marine habitats, in particular impacts from diving (in caves) and from discarded fishing gear (benthic habitats).

Representatives from Transport Malta (Ports and Yachting Directorate), the Professional Diving Schools Association, Atlam Diving Club, Birdlife Malta, University of Malta (Department of Geography), and the Federation of Amateur Fishing Associations (Federazzjoni ta l-Ghaqdiet tas-Sajjieda Dilettanti Malta) participated in the stakeholder seminar, together with representatives from project partners MEPA, University of Malta-Department of Biology, and the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture within MSDEC.

Please click here to view photos.

The deep sea around Malta: a biodiversity hotspot?

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Prof. Patrick J. Schembri (UoM-DoB) delivered a presentation entitled ‘The deep sea around Malta: a biodiversity hotspot?’ at an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation / Agence Française des Aires Marines Protégées (AFAMP) meeting on ‘Mediterranean Deep-Sea Ecosystems’ on 9 -10 September, 2015, which was held at the Station Marine D‘Endoume – IMBE, Marseille, France. Please find presentation here.

Photographic Exhibition – Press Event

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An outdoor photographic exhibition was held this August as part of the LIFE BaĦAR for N2K project. The aim of the exhibition was to increase the public’s appreciation for the marine environment, thereby increasing public participation in the promotion, conservation and management of marine habitats.

This will help to create a sense of ownership among the general public for the marine environment in the Maltese Islands, strengthening the Maltese people’s ability to identify with their natural heritage. This is important to ensure cooperation and compliance with conservation measures for the protected areas, when these are in place.

The exhibition commenced on Monday 10th August 2015 in St George’s Square Valletta, displaying 20 different local marine photographs, consisting of various themes such as people-sea interaction, marine biodiversity and seascapes. The exhibition remained on display in Valletta until Sunday 16th August 2015, and was subsequently displayed in two other localities: Sliema promenade (17th – 23rd August 2015) and Qawra, next to the Malta National Aquarium (24th – 30th August 2015). Public talks were held at the Malta National Aquarium and at the St Paul’s Bay Local Council on the 25th and 26th August 2015 respectively, to provide information about the project, marine habitats and the Natura 2000 network.

The official opening of the photographic exhibition was on Tuesday 11th August 2015, at St George’s Square Valletta. Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) Ecosystems Management Unit Manager, Mr Darrin T. Stevens, opened the launch, introducing the LIFE BaĦAR project and providing details about the aim of the photographic exhibition. The Hon. Dr Ian Borg – Parliamentary Secretary for the EU Presidency 2017 and EU Funds, highlighted the EU LIFE contribution to the project and mentioned that the 2015 call for proposals for LIFE grants is currently open, closing on the 1st October 2015, in which Malta has €12 million allocated for the period of 2014-2017. The Hon. Dr Michael Falzon – Parliamentary Secretary for Planning and Simplification of Administrative Processes, noted with pleasure how different entities are working together to carry out the project and the importance of marine research to learn more about the habitats around the Maltese islands. The Hon. Mr Leo Brincat – Minister for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change, highlighted the importance of these exhibitions, since they communicate the environmental message more effectively.

The exhibition will be held in another three localities next summer.

Click here to view pictures.

Photographic Exhibition

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MEPA is organising a street photographic exhibition which will present an interesting range of local marine photos which will offer a better understanding of the diverse marine habitats found within the Maltese marine protected areas and the roles played by different stakeholders.

This exhibition will be held in the following venues:

  • Pjazza San Ġorġ – Valletta, from August 10th till August 16th, 2015
  • Għar id-Dud – Sliema, from August 17th till August 23rd, 2015
  • Malta National Aquarium – Qawra, from August 24th till August 30th, 2015