The project will map out previously unexplored regions in Malta using an ROV and advanced mapping equipment
Oceana launches a two-month expedition to survey deep sea areas and underwater caves in Malta. The at-sea campaign, included within the LIFE BaĦAR for N2K project, will garner documentation on marine habitats and species so that new Sites of Community Importance can be protected under the Natura 2000 network. Many of these areas will be researched for the first time ever.
The project is co-financed by the EU LIFE+ Funding Programme and led by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA), in collaboration with the Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the University of Malta and Fundación Oceana. Important marine habitats will be surveyed in selected areas between the Maltese coastline and the 25 nautical mile boundary and down to depths of 1000m below sea level.
“Very little of the deep sea in Malta has been documented due to the technological complexity of researching this environment. In fact, the marine surveys Oceana are conducting for the LIFE BaĦAR for N2K project will be the only existing underwater images of many of the researched areas” explains Ricardo Aguilar, campaign director and expedition leader at Oceana in Europe. “We are very excited about this expedition because previous explorations into the Mediterranean have resulted in significant discoveries and have been fundamental in our pursuit of protecting important marine sites.”
Research and surveys will be carried out onboard the research catamaran Oceana Ranger using an ROV which reaches depths of up to 1000 metres recording in full HD. Marine scientists onboard the Ranger will prioritise the research of reefs, sandbanks and submarine caves, as these marine features must be protected under the Habitats Directive. Video, photos and seabed samples will be taken to ensure a better understanding of the areas surveyed.
Notes to the editor
LIFE BaĦAR for N2K is the second LIFE+ project partnered by Oceana. Earlier this year, LIFE+ INDEMARES concluded in Spain, resulting in 73,000 sqkm included under Natura 2000 network. Oceana was responsible for researching a seamount with similar technology as that to be used in Malta, and contributed information on some of the surveyed areas within the project.
The Natura 2000 is a network of protected areas throughout the EU and considered the largest coherent group of protected areas in the world. The Natura 2000 network was established in 1992 under the Habitats Directive, with the long term aim of protecting Europe’s most vulnerable and threatened species and habitats.