The LIFE BaĦAR for N2K Closing Event was held at Villa Bighi, Kalkara on the 5th June 2018, and was attended by the Minister for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change José Herrera, the project team members from ERA, MESDC, MESDC-DFA, University of Malta and Oceana, as well as various stakeholders.
The Hon. Dr José Herrera visited the LIFE BaĦAR exhibition at Esplora and then proceeded to launch the closing event by announcing that Malta has increasing the protected marine areas from 3,487 km2 to 4,138 km2, reaching over 35% of the Maltese waters through the designation of an additional eight Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) for Malta. These additional areas have been designated through the LIFE BaHAR project and are being afforded protection owing to the presence of important seabed habitats, specifically reefs and caves, in both coastal and deep waters.
Three new inshore sites are an extension to the area covered by existing coastal MPAs and now these include a variety of coastal cave and reef habitats. Apart from this, the LIFE BaĦAR for N2K project extended three offshore sites which had been previously designated as MPAs and which are important for the loggerhead turtle and the bottlenose dolphin. The project also led to the designation of two completely new areas. These include offshore reefs hosting extensive and diverse communities of cold-water corals and of gorgonians and many species of conservation interest.
Following introductory speeches by Ms Margaret Cassar, Director MESDC-PDPID, and Perit Michelle Piccinino, Director Environment and Resources, ERA, a video on Malta’s Marine Protected Areas was shown, showcasing the findings and results of the project.
This was followed by presentations given by the LIFE BaĦAR project team, providing more information on the work done throughout the project and the results achieved.
Project manager Ms Christina Mallia (ERA) introduced the project objectives, aims and actions.
Mr Ricardo Aguilar, Research and Expeditions Director for Oceana Europe, presented the survey methodology employed to carry out the expeditions and collect new data.
Dr Leyla Knittweis-Mifsud, from the University of Malta’s Department of Biology, presented the findings of the surveys and the overall interpretation of the data including the recommendations on sites hosting areas of conservation potential.
Mr Christopher Cousin, Nature Team Manager (ERA), provided an overview of the designation and management process, including the sites that have been proposed for protection through the LIFE BaĦAR project and subsequently approved by Cabinet.
Mr Michael Saliba (MESDC-DFA) provided an overview of the interviews held with stakeholders and recommendations for best practice; a poster developed to promote such practices was exhibited during the event.
Mr Darrin Stevens, ERA Deputy Director, closed the event by thanking all who have worked to make the project a success (which numbered over 100) and made reference to ERA’s ongoing consultation exercise with stakeholders which will lead to the development of management measures for all the MPAs.
The event closed with a reception and networking event. Apart from the project team and other participants from ERA. MESDC and DFA, stakeholders who attended the event include representatives from Transport Malta, Police Department (ALE), Malta Marittima, FUAM, Atlam Sub Aqua, BirdLife Malta, Sharklab- Malta, Federation of Amateur Fishing Association, Marsaxlokk Artisinal Fishers, and ‘Għaqda Baħħara, Sajjieda u Dilettanti Wied il-Għajn.