Arċipelagu Garnija

BirdLife Malta’s LIFE Project Arċipelagu Garnija aims at securing the Maltese Islands for the Yelkouan Shearwater, a small shearwater species that can only be found in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean region.

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BirdLife Malta’s LIFE Project Arċipelagu Garnija aims at securing the Maltese Islands for the Yelkouan Shearwater, of where approximately 10% of the species’ global population can be found. Protection of this local population is important on the global scale, especially with the drastic declines Yelkouan Shearwaters have been facing over the last decades. The species has been recently listed as ‘vulnerable’ in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species and is protected by several international conservation agreements, as well as local legislation. It is listed under Annex I of the EU Birds Directive.

The Project’s objectives are:

– Assess all Yelkouan Shearwater colonies, their size and reproductive output

– Identify and map threats at each Yelkouan Shearwater colony site

– Prepare and implement conservation strategies for the main colonies, matching the management plan for most of the coastal SPA sites of the Maltese Islands

– Tackle threats posed by alien invasive species, light pollution, bunkering (ship fuelling) and additional maritime activities by reaching out to the relevant stakeholders

– Achieve a reduction of the main threats per site by one-third

– Increase the reproductive output of the majority of breeding colonies by 25%

– Support key targets in Malta’s National Strategy and Biodiversity Action Plan to reach Good Environmental Status (GES) by 2020

– Ensure the management of Natura 2000 sites


The LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project is co-financed by a number of organisations, with 10% generated by EU funds, 25% from Maltese Government funds, and 5% from the RSPB. BirdLife Malta finances 10% of the project.

BirdLife Malta is also collaborating with partner organisations to fulfil the project objectives.

rspblogoblacktextengcmyk_tcm7-347987The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)

The RSPB is one of the worlds largest Nature Conservation NGOs and BirdLife Partner in the UK. The RSPB has a long tradition in projects and therefore expertise in island restauration, species recovery and eradication of Alien Invasive Species (AIS). Their main part of the project is a feasibility study for the eradication of rats and other alien invasives on Comino and Cominotto with the aim to improve the reproductive success of the seabirds on Comino and to restore the natural habitat of this bird sanctuary and Natura 2000 site. The whole project has been planned with support from experts in seabird conservation, including staff from the RSPB.

Transport MaltaMalta Transport Grayscale

Transport Malta will be contributing to the project. Their role is to disseminate the information regarding the protection of birds’ habitat through the Notices to Mariners and to be involved in assessing the threats of offshore bunkering of ships close to colonies. Together with the AFM and ALE, TM’s Sea Enforcement Unit, they will also inform any boats in the area not to cause excessive noise such as loud music that would disrupt the habitats during routine patrols.



Yelkouan Shearwater

The Yelkouan Shearwater (Garnija), yelkouan1 copya medium-sized seabird flies with rapid wing beats, rarely shearing over waves. During its breeding season, from February to July, individuals may be observed resting at sea alone or in small rafts. Malta’s population is estimated to be around 1,600 – 1,800 pairs, constituting approximately 10% of the global population. The Maltese population has declined in recent years, mainly due to predation by rats, loss of breeding habitat, illegal hunting, disturbance and light and sound pollution. The IUCN classes the Yelkouan Shearwater as ‘vulnerable.’



By identifying the key threats which affect the Yelkouan Shearwater, appropriate conservation strategies will then be prepared and implemented, securing the main colonies.

This will include:

– Looking at the risk of Alien Invasive Species, littering and the implementation of predator control and invasive rodent removal for protection the of eggs and chicks which are vulnerable to rat predation

– The project will also work towards significantly reducing light pollution from Cirkewwa Ferry Terminal, which is situated close to three Yelkouan colonies causing disturbance to the birds

– Tackling the effects of bunkering (ship fuelling) in close proximity to colonies and other maritime threats causing disturbance, from recreational boat owners and boat trip operators

– Lastly, raising public awareness about these secretive seabirds to gain strong support from the Maltese population making the Yelkouan Shearwater a mascot for the protection and management of Malta’s coastal nature sites, many of them Natura 2000 sites, to which these seabirds come back every year to breed

The conservation actions will then be monitored at the top priority sites throughout the duration of the project.


News, Blog and Events

Becoming an Arċipelagu Garnija project warden

February 27th, 2017. Working in a seabird conservation project is something that I would never have imagined the first time I stepped on to the Maltese islands. Read more >>

Vacancy: Technical Officer 

February 22nd, 2017. BirdLife Malta are currently seeking a Technical Officer to join the LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija team to carry out a range of duties related to light pollution affecting Yelkouan Shearwaters colonies in the Maltese islands. Read more >>

LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija Walk and Talk

February 12th, 2017. LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija will be delivering a talk and a night walk on the cliffs of Majjistral today week, Sunday 12th February. This event is being organised by Il-Majjistral Nature and History Park with collaboration from LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija.

Yelkouan Shearwater mating season

January 31st, 2017. January and February marks the mating period for the Yelkouan Shearwaters and right now, the LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project staff are busy monitoring the activity in the different colonies. Here are some amazing clips captured by remote camera trails at the L-Irdum tal-Madonna colony. Watch here >>

Yelkouan Shearwater Call Count

December 16th, 2016. The LIFE Arcipelagu Garnija project will be focused in the next months in locating and monitoring Yelkouan Shearwater colonies all around the Maltese Islands. We would like all people who are interested in our project to have the opportunity to join us in the field and discover the amazing lives of this seabird. Read more >>

Becoming a Project Warden: the first steps working with Yelkouan Shearwaters

December 7th, 2016. Living on a tiny, overpopulated group of islands it is easy to get disheartened if you treasure nature and wildlife. The environmental problems found worldwide are all the more concentrated on Malta and facing them can be daunting. Luckily there are people that do; BirdLife Malta researchers and conservationists for example. Read more >>

LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija Project Warden vacancy

November 9th, 2016. BirdLife Malta is looking for one full-time Project Warden to join their international team in the LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija Project to carry out a range of seabird monitoring and wardening duties at Yelkouan Shearwaters nesting sites in the Maltese islands. The Project Warden will be based in our offices and work in relevant Natura 2000 sites. Read more >>

Record of stranded Scopoli’s Shearwaters in 2016

November 4th, 2016. BirdLife Malta would like to thank the public for responding to its call and helping in rescuing stranded Scopoli’s Shearwaters which become disorientated during the fledging season. October 2016 marks a record as 21 fledglings were rescued and safely released back at sea. Read more >>

Research conducted in Malta shared at two international seabird conferences

October 17th, 2016. Last week, BirdLife Malta attended a meeting in Paris to develop the Species Action Plan for Yelkouan Shearwater, joined by leading bird researchers and experts from Spain, Italy, France, Morocco, Turkey, Greece, Libya, Croatia, Malta, Tunisia, Bulgaria and the UK as part of the LIFE EuroSAP project. Read more >>

BirdLife Malta appeals to the public to help stranded Scopoli’s Shearwater fledglings

October 5th, 2016. BirdLife Malta is asking the public to report any sightings or findings of Scopoli’s Shearwater (Ċiefa) which may have become stranded during their first flight so they can be safely released back at sea. Read more >>

An update from LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija

September 2nd, 2016. LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija has officially finished its first field season.From January to July BirdLife Malta’s seabird team has been working day and night, from land and sea during the Yelkouan Shearwater breeding season, focusing on the preparatory actions of the project. Read more >>

Radio-tracking Yelkouan Shearwaters to measure impact of light pollution

June 2nd, 2016. To fully understand the impact of artificial light on the Yelkouan Shearwater (Garnija) caused by bunkering ships, a radio-tracking project has been started at a breeding site of the birds in the northern part of Malta. Read more>>

Arċipelagu Garnija Project Launch

May 27th, 2016. Today the official launch of Arċipelagu Garnija took place at Majjistral Nature and History Park that hosts one of the largest Yelkouan Shearwater colonies. The launch event celebrated the beginning of the five-year long project, alongside partners Transport Malta and the RSPB. Read more>>



Meet the team

Paulo Lago

Paulo Lago joined the team of LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija as Acting Project PauloManager in July 2016. Paulo has a background in bird and nature conservation. He has study a Masters in Protected Areas and has volunteered with various environmental NGOs with alien plants, bird and cetacean conservation.

Paulo has more than 10 years of experience in nature conservation. The last four years his career has been linked to BirdLife Malta, where he began as a conservation assistant in 2012. In 2014, Paulo was a field assistant in the LIFE+ Malta Seabird Poject and in 2015 became Head of Research in the last stage of this project to declare the Maltese IBAs as SPAs (as part of the marine Natura 2000 network).

Nicholas Barbara

Nicholas BarbaraNicholas Barbara is BirdLife Malta’s Conservation Manager. He joined BirdLife Malta in 2009 to manage BirdLife Malta’s LIFE Yelkouan Shearwater Project bringing to a close BirdLife Malta’s first ever LIFE project which secured Malta’s largest colony of Yelkouan Shearwater. From then on Nicholas moved on to manage the LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project, while also managing BirdLife Malta’s growing conservation department. Nicholas studied conservation biology in the UK, and biology and chemistry in Malta, having worked as an ecologist and an EIA coordinator before joining BirdLife Malta. Along with the rest of the team, Nicholas is lending his expertise and experience to ensure this project is another success for BirdLife Malta and its partners. LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija will be the fourth LIFE project he is working on, after having also assisted the LIFE+ project on bird migration and trapping.

Juan Salvador Santiago Cabello

Juan SantiagoJuan Salvador Santiago Cabello has a degree in biology and a masters in conservation of biodiversity from Granada University. He is passionate about nature and participated as a volunteer in Sierra Nevada National Park in Padul’s wetland for five years. In February 2015, he arrived in Malta to work for Birdlife Malta in the conservation team as an EVS volunteer and since then has worked within the LIFE funded Malta Seabird Project. He is one of the project wardens in the LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project.

Martin Austad

martinMartin Austad has a bachelor’s degree in Earth Systems from the University of Malta, in which his dissertation focused on the small Maltese nesting bird, the Spectacled Warbler. His masters in Ecology was with the Norwegian University of Life Sciences where, as part of the programme, he carried out research on the nesting ecology of the Black Skimmer in the Peruvian Amazon.  From an early age, Martin began taking part Birdlife Malta activities and birdwatching. He then started volunteering with the organisation and later became a leader of the youth group Falko and helped out as a licensed bird ringer with the LIFE+ Malta Seabird project. Martin has now joined the LIFE+ Arcipelagu Garnija team as Project Warden.

Gianmarco Santirocco

ÑGianmarco Santirocco studied economy and accountancy at the Univerisity of Macerata and qualified as an Accountant and Auditor in the same university. For four years he worked in the UK for Best Imports, Jelly Belly distributor and in Italy for Perkin Elmer in the Export Department. After obtaining his professional qualification he moved to Malta, where he was an Erasmus student years before, and after some time with various companies, Gianmarco was selected by BirdLife Malta to take over the finance department. As financial manager, Gianmarco was part of the international team that worked on the application of Arċipelagu Garnija, the only successful LIFE project for Malta in 2014.

Arturo PalombaArturo

Arturo Palomba has a degree in Economics and Commerce and masters in Economics and Finance. He has worked in a number of companies as a finance assistant and accountant, including Farmalogistica LTD and SAE srl. Arturo spent his first year at BirdLife Malta as an EVS volunteer within the finance department. Since December 2015 he began working in the new project, LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija, under the guidance of the project manager Ben Metzger and alongside the finance manager, as project administrator.

Nathaniel Attard

Nathaniel AttardNathaniel Attard is BirdLife Malta’s Communications Manager and joined the organisation in May 2016 after a successful 17-year career in the media having worked as a journalist, TV newscaster, news manager, and newspaper editor. He is a qualified proofreader in the Maltese language. Together with his team he will be responsible for dissemination of all the information regarding LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija through a detailed communications strategy which will work to achieve the objectives of the project and help it reach its aims. This is his first experience working on an EU-funded project with BirdLife Malta and he is looking forward to help make it a success.

mark (2)

Mark Sultana

BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana’s role in this project is to assist the team, in particular the project leader and finance officer, in the decision making process to direct this project to successful results; as achieved in previous EU funded projects that BirdLife Malta has managed over the years. Mark says: “I value the importance of scientific research through projects. EU funded LIFE projects allow us to acquire this knowledge to help us achieve our mission in conserving and protecting nature.”

Past project staff

Dr. Benjamin Metzger

Benjamin Metzger joined the team of LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija Benas the project manager. Benjamin has a background in avian biology and conservation and has been fascinated by the life of birds since early childhood. He has studied and monitored birds in various parts of the world and has volunteered with various ringing schemes and nature conservation NGOs. With more than 15 years of work experience in the field, Benjamin’s occupations have covered topics ranging from avian physiology via migratory strategies and avian pathogens, to environmental impact assessments. Lately, his work has been increasingly focusing on the conservation of marine birds and their habitats. For the past four years, Benjamin was leading the research in BirdLife Malta’s LIFE funded Malta Seabird Project of creating an inventory of marine Important Bird Areas, resulting in their designation as Marine Protected Areas.


Edward Jenkins

Edward Jenkins has studied birds as a field biologist since graduating in 2010. Recent highlights include monitoring fairy-wrens in Australia, seabirds in California and ringing in Israel in 2015. Employed as Project Warden on the EU LIFE Arċipelagu Garnijia project for seven months, Edward is continuing on to further education in Canada in August 2016.

Contact details

Life Arċipelagu Garnija


BirdLife Malta V.O. 0052

Office address: Flat 2, Xemxija Waterfront Apartments, Triq Is-Simar, Xemxija SPB9025

Legal address: 57/28 Triq Abate Rigord, Ta’ Xbiex XBX 1120


Tel: +356 21347646 Direct Ext: 511

Mobile: +356 77615533