BirdLife Malta’s LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project has partnered with Transport Malta to reduce the impact of maritime activities on the protected Yelkouan Shearwater in the Maltese Islands. Apart from the European Union’s LIFE programme as main co-financer, the five-year project – which is now coming to an end – is also co-financed by the Ministry for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning.
Through this project, the Ministry for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning supported the preservation of biodiversity and the security of the populations of threatened seabird species breeding on the Maltese Islands. It will also promote the review of policies on outdoor lighting – with a much sharper focus on light pollution in coastal and natural areas in the Maltese Archipelago.
Following research carried out under the project, guidelines to minimize the impact of boats at a total of nine sensitive sites that host Yelkouan Shearwater (Garnija) colonies in Malta and Gozo were formalised by BirdLife Malta and Transport Malta, and issued as Notices to Mariners in the past days.
Malta hosts 10% of the global population of the Yelkouan Shearwater; a seabird which only lives in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. These vulnerable seabirds breed along the Maltese coast, inside burrows in caves and on sheer cliffs between January and July. Because they are active only at night and the chicks stay inside deep burrows during the day, people are not aware of them when they are visiting the sites. Disturbance happens when large boats enter into small caves with high noise and lights. Stress from this disturbance may impact the breeding success of this threatened species.
BirdLife Malta partnership with Transport Malta through LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project leads to compromise safeguarding the vulnerable Yelkouan Shearwater
One of the objectives of the LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project was to reduce the disturbance from boat activities to breeding Yelkouans. As boat-based tourism is highly popular and a source of income for many families in Malta, the socio-economic impact of this objective on commercial boat operators was also considered.
To reach a compromise BirdLife Malta and Transport Malta discussed these guidelines with boat operators and also consulted with the Environment and Resources Authority. As a result three new Notices to Mariners covering a total of nine sites were issued today:
- The first Notice to Mariners lists eight sensitive sites where Yelkouans are breeding and which are often visited by boats.
- Another Notice to Mariners upgrades Notice to Mariners No 02 of 2010, which was issued under BirdLife Malta’s first LIFE-funded seabird project – the EU LIFE Yelkouan Shearwater Project – and which, based on more research, introduces additional measures for the ninth site.
- An additional Notice to Mariners urges mariners to report sightings of light-induced seabird strikes in their vessels.
The nine sites covered by the Notices to Mariners are:
- L-Irdum tal-Madonna, l-Aħrax tal-Mellieħa
- Santa Marija Caves, Comino
- St. Paul’s Islands
- Majjistral Nature and History Park
- Miġra l-Ferħa
- Blue Grotto, Żurrieq
- Ta’ Ċenċ, Gozo
- Dwejra, Gozo
The Notices to Mariners coming into force with immediate effect will be applicable all year round and can be found listed here (Coastal) and here (Local).
Apart from these policies, BirdLife Malta has also shared a voluntary code of conduct with commercial boat operators and encourages all mariners to follow this code of conduct and contribute to the conservation of the threatened Yelkouan Shearwater in Malta by reducing the impact of their activities to a minimum.
Read the Maltese version of the press release here. You can also find the three Notices to Mariners issued by Transport Malta in PDF format (click on the links) below.
- Notice to Mariners (Coastal) No 44 of 2020 (LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija Project – Restrictions areas around Malta)
- Notice to Mariners (Coastal) No 45 of 2020 (Restricted area between Ponta tal-Aħrax and Daħlet ix-Xilep)
- Local Notice to Mariners No 104 of 2020 (Studies on light-induced seabird ship strikes in the Maltese waters by BirdLife Malta)