An amazing spectacle of nature!

August 11, 2021 3:31 pm

BirdLife Malta’s EU-funded LIFE PanPuffinus! project aims to protect two endemic and threatened Mediterranean seabirds: the Yelkouan and the Balearic Shearwater, through a unique transboundary collaboration for joint large-scale conservation efforts.

In partnership with France, Greece, Portugal and Spain, this venture will attempt to protect these bird species as they face menacing perils; predation by invasive mammal species on land, and accidental capture by fishing gear (bycatch) at sea.

The €3.45 million project is led by Malta’s largest eNGO BirdLife Malta. Established in 1962, BirdLife Malta is the oldest environmental organisation in Malta, committed to the protection of wild birds and their habitats. A non-governmental organisation, BirdLife Malta is also part of the BirdLife International network working towards conserving global biodiversity and the sustainability of natural resources.

BirdLife Malta’s collaborations with other affiliating organisations, spanning from governmental to non-governmental, provide the necessary expertise and initiative, required to fulfill the project objectives at hand. The project partners (listed below) jointly strive towards bettering the conservation status of these species by implementing several different practices, including: 

  • quantifying the scale and extent of fisheries bycatch and pilot-testing of GFCM data collection methodology
  • reducing fisheries bycatch of both species by using existing mitigation measures or developing new ones
  • decreasing the rate of predation by rats by implementing non-native invasive predator management and biosecurity plans
  • driving changes in management through engagement with key stakeholders and by building awareness on seabirds with communities
Scopoli’s Shearwaters rafting on the water beneath Ta’ Ċenċ cliffs (Photo by Ben Metzger)

A wonderful shearwater boat trip with LIFE PanPuffinus!

To celebrate this recently-launched seabird project, this year BirdLife Malta decided to offer its annual shearwater boat trips – one of the most popular annual events organised by the NGO – for free to its members. New members were also given the exclusive one-time opportunity to join the trips which were held over the 6-7 August weekend.

The LIFE PanPuffinus! shearwater boat trip which we attended departed from Ċirkewwa and steered us through the beautiful Maltese waters towards Ta’ Ċenċ Cliffs, Gozo.

We were welcomed by gorgeous sights as the sun began to set in front of us, and slowly one lonely shearwater turned into a flock of feathered animals that flew around our boat at breakneck pace.

Prior to departure, Sonia Vallocchia – BirdLife Malta’s Seabird Conservation Assistant – explained to the group what to expect, and also provided interesting details about the Yelkouan Shearwater and the ongoing LIFE PanPuffinus! project.

Once we arrived under Ta’ Ċenċ cliffs, we observed countless Scopoli’s Shearwaters (Ċief) huddling around each other and floating on the water. We thank BirdLife Malta for this experience as getting a close-up look at these extraordinary specimens was an enlightening experience and something we wholeheartedly recommend!

Manya Russo, LIFE PanPuffinus! Project Manager, explained more to us about the spectacular phenomenon of nature which can be witnessed every year at this time of the year when the shearwaters are returning to their nests in the cliffs. Watch the interview below!

Click below for more pictures from this year’s shearwater boat trip and watch the video documenting this year’s trips at the bottom of this blog, which can also be found on BirdLife Malta’s YouTube channel!

For more information about BirdLife Malta’s LIFE PanPuffinus! project click here.

By BirdLife Malta members Cara Borg Aquilina & Luca Formosa

The project partners

  • The Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture from Malta (DFA) within the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Animal Rights is responsible for managing fisheries in Maltese waters.
  • The Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS) is the Greek BirdLife partner and has vast experience in implementing projects for the conservation of seabirds and marine areas.
  • The Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO) is the French BirdLife partner and has long experience on protection of seabirds.
  • The Sociedad Española de Ornitología (SEO) is the Spanish BirdLife partner and has wide experience in research and conservation of seabirds, paying particular attention to the critically endangered Balearic Shearwater.
  • The Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves (SPEA) is the Portuguese partner of BirdLife International with vast experience in coordinating LIFE projects, invasive non-native predator eradication and control, and bycatch mitigation measures.
  • The Management Body of the Cyclades Protected Areas (MB-CPA) is a new private-law legal entity inspected by the Greek Ministry of Environment & Energy. MB-CPA is responsible for the conservation of all habitat types and species for a total of 36 Natura 2000 areas, both terrestrial and marine, spread across the Cyclades Islands. 
Shearwater Boat Trips with LIFE PanPuffinus!