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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:

New world record: Malta has deepest known populations of precious red coral

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A new depth record for the precious red coral has been set, and it belongs to Malta! The deep sea around the Maltese Islands was investigated during two separate expeditions, in 2015 and 2016, as part of the LIFE BaĦAR for N2K project. During these surveys an underwater robot equipped with a video camera was used to explore the seabed down to depths of more than 1 km. The project scientists were surprised to find numerous colonies of the precious red coral (Corallium rubrum) growing down to depths of 1016 m – over 200m deeper than the previous record, also from Maltese waters.

The team of scientists from the NGO Oceana, who undertook the surveys, and the University of Malta’s Department of Biology, who were responsible for analysing the data, recently presented their findings at the 41st Congress of the International Commission for the Scientific Exploration of the Mediterranean (CIESM), which took place in Kiel, Germany from the 12 – 16 September 2016.

Prof. Patrick J. Schembri, from the University of Malta’s Department of Biology, explained that ‘red coral colonies are usually reported from depths ranging between 15 m and 300 m depth, and had never been recorded at depths beyond 800 m before. The colonies were part of a diverse community of living corals at depths of 300 to 1000 m. This record was a surprise to us all but it goes to show just how little we know about the sea which surrounds our own islands.’

Several other interesting findings made during the LIFE BAĦAR for N2K surveys were also presented at the CIESM congress. These included the discovery of a fossilised sponge reef at a depth of ca. 300 m, deep-water caves located at depths down to 450 m, as well as vast expanses of sand/mud habitats, inhabited by diverse communities of species including some rare and threatened ones.
Ricardo Aguilar, expedition leader and research director at Oceana in Europe, remarked that ‘Most of the sites where we encountered diverse coral reefs had never been researched before, and the findings of the LIFE BaĦAR for N2K project indicate that the deep-sea around Malta represents an important biodiversity hotspot’.

The LIFE BaĦAR for N2K project, through which these expeditions were funded, ultimately aims to ensure that vulnerable marine habitats, including deep water reefs, acquire protection through the designation of marine protected sites under Natura 2000, the European Union network that collectively safeguards the EU’s most valuable natural areas. The information gathered during the surveys will enable the formulation of more effective conservation measures to address the identified pressures, including from marine litter and discarded fishing gear.

The LIFE BaĦAR for N2K project is co-financed by the EU LIFE+ Funding Programme, and is led by the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA), with the Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change (MSDEC), the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture (DFA), the Department of Biology of the University of Malta (DoB-UoM) and Oceana as partners.

Press Release date 7 October 2016

Link to UoM Press Release (English) and Press Release (Maltese)

Living red coral at 1010 m depth

Living red coral at 1010 m depth

Deep-water coral reef with red coral

Deep-water coral reef with red coral

 

Oceana tniedi spedizzjoni fl-ibħra Maltin mħux esplorati

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08/06/2015

Il-proġett ser jinvestiga reġjuni f’Malta li għadhom qatt ma ġew esplorati s’issa permezz ta’ ROV u tagħmir avvanzat ta’ immappjar

Oceana se tniedi spedizzjoni ta’ xahrejn biex tistudja żoni ta’ baħar fond u għerien taħt l-ilma f’Malta. Il-kampanja, inkluża fil-proġett LIFE BaĦAR for N2K, se tiġbor informazzjoni dwar ambjenti u speċi tal-baħar sabiex Siti ta’ Importanza Komunitarja ġodda jkunu jistgħu jiġu protetti taħt in-netwerk Natura 2000. Ħafna minn dawn iż-żoni se jiġu riċerkati għall-ewwel darba.

Il-proġett huwa parzjalment iffinanzjat mill-fond LIFE+ ta’ Unjoni Ewropea u mmexxi mill-Awtorità ta’ Malta dwar l-Ambjent u l-Ippjanar (MEPA), b’kollaborazzjoni mal-Ministeru għall-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli, l-Ambjent u t-Tibdil fil-Klima, id-Dipartiment tas-Sajd u l-Akkwakultura, l-Università ta’ Malta u Fundación Oceana. Ambjenti tal-baħar importanti se jiġu studjati f’żoni partikolari bejn il-kosta Maltija u l-konfini ta’ 25 mil nawtiku u f’fond ’l isfel sa 1000m taħt il-livell tal-baħar.

Ricardo Aguilar, id-direttur tal-kampanja u l-mexxej tal-ispedizzjoni ta’ Oceana fl-Ewropa jispjega li: “Ftit li xejn baħar fond f’Malta ġie dokumentat minħabba l-kumplessità teknoloġika tar-riċerka f’dan l-ambjent. Fil-fatt, l-istudji marittimi mwettqa minn Oceana għall-proġett LIFE BaĦAR for N2K se jkunu l-uniċi immaġini ta’ taħt l-ilma li jeżistu ta’ ħafna miż-żoni riċerkati”. “Ninsabu eċitati ħafna dwar din l-ispedizzjoni għax esplorazzjonijiet li saru qabel fil-Mediterran wasslu għal skoperti sinifikanti u kienu fundamentali fix-xogħol tagħna biex inħarsu siti marittimi importanti.”

Se jsiru riċerka u studji abbord il-katamaran ta’ riċerka Oceana Ranger permezz ta’ ROV li jinżel sa 1000 metru fil-fond u jirrekordja b’HD komplut. Ix-xjentisti marittimi abbord ir-Ranger se jagħtu prijorità lir-riċerka tas-sikek, l-imfierex tar-ramel u l-għerien tal-baħar, peress li dawn il-karatteristiċi tal-baħar għandhom jiġu protetti taħt id-Direttiva dwar il-Habitats. Se jittieħdu vidjows, ritratti u kampjuni minn qiegħ il-baħar biex jiżguraw li wieħed jifhem sew iż-żoni studjati.

Noti lill-editur

LIFE BaĦAR for N2K huwa t-tieni proġett LIFE+ bi sħab ma’ Oceana. Aktar kmieni din is-sena, LIFE+ INDEMARES konkluż fi Spanja, wassal biex jiġu miżjuda 73,000 km2 man-netwerk Natura 2000. Oceana kienet responsabbli biex tirriċerka għolja fil-baħar b’teknoloġija simili bħal dik li se tintuża f’Malta, u tat informazzjoni dwar xi wħud miż-żoni studjati fi ħdan il-proġett.

Natura 2000 huwa netwerk ta’ żoni protetti fl-UE u huwa meqjus bħala l-akbar grupp koerenti ta’ żoni protetti fid-dinja. In-netwerk Natura 2000 ġie stabbilit fl-1992 taħt id-Direttiva dwar il-Ħabitats, bil-għan fit-tul li jipproteġi l-ispeċijiet u l-ħabitats l-iktar vulnerabbli u mhedda fl-Ewropa.