BirdLife Malta’s EU-funded LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project 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.
The Maltese Islands are home to approximately 10% of the global population of this seabird species, therefore their protection 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.
- Yelkouan Shearwater
- LIFE programme
- Contact & Team
Following last year’s success, even this year we are following the action at the cliffs with #NestWatch! We will be capturing footage from different Yelkouan Shearwater nesting sites as the birds return to Malta for the breeding period. Stay tuned for more updates!
To watch last year’s series of #NestWatch videos click on the playlist we’ve created on our YouTube channel here. In 2018 we produced a total of eight short videos documenting the different phases of the Yelkouan Shearwater breeding period from February to July together with a summary with the highlights!
– 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.
BirdLife Malta is collaborating with partner organisations to fulfil the project objectives:
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 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. The LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project is co-financed by a number of organisations, with 60% generated by EU funds, 25% from Maltese Government funds, and 5% from the RSPB. BirdLife Malta finances 10% of the project.
The Yelkouan Shearwater (Garnija), a 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.
A record year for stranded seabirds 14 November, 2018. It has been a record year for stranded seabirds, with 24 stranded Scopoli’s Shearwaters recovered and successfully released back to sea thanks to the public response. This is five more than in 2017 and on the other hand it shows the worrying effects of increasing levels of light pollution across the Maltese Islands. Read more >>
Appeal to the public to help disorientated Scopoli’s Shearwater chicks as fledging season starts 10 October, 2018. It’s the fledging season for Scopoli’s Shearwaters! At this time of year, young Scopoli’s leave their nests at night to train their wings in the cliffs where they breed. After several nights they will then fledge for the first time. However, bright coastal lights can leave these young seabirds disorientated increasing their chances of becoming stranded inland. As in the past fledging seasons of these secretive birds, we are calling on the public to report any sightings or findings of stranded Scopoli’s Shearwaters to BirdLife Malta. Read more >>
A record year for stranded Yelkouan Shearwater fledglings 6 August, 2018. This year has seen a record total of nine stranded Yelkouan Shearwater fledglings recovered by members of the public in their fledging period between June and July. BirdLife Malta’s LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project team would like to thank everyone that has helped to give these fledglings a second chance. Read more >>
Look around your nearest seafront to rescue Yelkouan Shearwater fledglings 15 June, 2018. It’s fledging time again for Yelkouans! At this time of year Yelkouan Shearwater chicks start leaving their nests in the cliffs for their first flight. However, bright coastal lights can leave these young seabirds disorientated. So BirdLife Malta is calling on the public to look around the nearest seafront and rescue Yelkouan Shearwater fledglings which may have become stranded inland due to light pollution. Read more>>
BirdLife Malta’s seabird project enters new phase, project video launched 11 May, 2018. Our project has now entered its third year and after the initial years of monitoring and assessment of Yelkouan Shearwater colonies and the threats they face, a new phase of important conservation actions to tackle these risks now begins. To mark this new stage we have launched the official project video. Read more>>
LIFE Unit external monitor visits the project 09-10 May, 2018. The external monitor appointed by the LIFE Unit of the European Commission visited LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija to monitor the progress of the project’s actions. She also did a field visit to Majjistral to see first-hand the conservation activities in one of the most important Yelkouan Shearwater colonies. All the project partners were present. Read more>>
BirdLife Malta’s seabird project gives new insight to breeding birds 03 April, 2018. BirdLife Malta’s LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project is bringing the intimate behaviours of Malta’s Yelkouan Shearwaters into the limelight with exclusive footage direct from the nests. Read more>>
Yelkouan Shearwater Call Count 03 February, 2018. The first Yelkouan Shearwater Call Count of 2018 was held at Rdum tal-Madonna as the nesting season has started for these seabirds. Unfortunately the weather was not good and birds were not active but the volunteers saw the threats that the Rdum tal-Madonna colony faces. Read more>>
Yelkouan Shearwater pre-breeding period 19 December, 2017. It’s the Yelkouan Shearwater pre-breeding season again! We have been monitoring the activity in the different colonies. Here’s some action from the cliffs taken with one of our remote trail cameras. Watch here>>
Vacancy: Seabird Conservation Warden 06 November, 2017. The Seabird Conservation Warden is a full-time position as part of BirdLife Malta’s LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project, which aims to secure the Maltese Islands for the Yelkouan Shearwater. Read more>>
First Mediterranean Storm-petrel nestling ringed at L-Irdum tal-Madonna 01 November, 2017. The project team have successfully ringed a Mediterranean Storm-petrel nestling at L-Irdum tal-Madonna for the first time. Read more >>
Vacancy: Light Pollution Technical Officer 11 October, 2017. The Light Pollution Technical Officer is a full-time position as part of BirdLife Malta’s LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project, which aims to secure the Maltese Islands for the Yelkouan Shearwater. Read more>>
Keep an eye open for stranded seabirds! 07 October, 2017. In the coming days, Scopoli’s Shearwater chicks will begin to fledge from their nests in the cliffs for the first time and BirdLife Malta is calling for the public’s assistance to report any potential strandings. Read more>>
Stranded Yelkouan Shearwater chicks rescued 22 June, 2017. Two Yelkouan Shearwater (Garnija) chicks have after they were found stranded in Għadira Bay and Buġibba during fledging period.
Mediterranean Storm-petrel release 30 May, 2017. Volunteers working on the LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project successfully released a Mediterranean Storm-petrel which was found stranded in Sliema. The reason that this bird was found in an urban area is probably because of light pollution, which causes the bird to be disorientated and attracted to the lights – a key threat the project is working to tackle. You can watch the video of the release here.
Vacancy: Technical Officer 22 February, 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 >>
Yelkouan Shearwater mating season 31 January, 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 >>
LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija Project Warden vacancy 09 November, 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 04 November, 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 17 October, 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 calls on the public to help stranded Scopoli’s Shearwater fledglings 05 October, 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 >>
LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija Project Launch 27 May, 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>>
A successful Yelkouan Shearwater breeding season! 7 September, 2018. Yelkouan Shearwaters visit the Maltese Islands every year to breed between February and July, which means that now the colonies are empty while the birds spend some months at sea. The LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija team is also back to their desks after a busy field season. Read more >>
Five things you learn working with seabirds 9 August, 2018. The beauty of seabird work is that it is always different. Each species has its own challenges and rewards so two days are never the same. There are some general lessons that you find out though, even as early as day one. Read more >>
World Oceans Day 2018 8 June, 2018. The 8th of June is an important date for any marine-minded person. People around the world will be taking part in events to celebrate our oceans as a part of World Oceans Day. Read more >>
(Inter)National Nest Box Week 2018! 14 February, 2018. The 14th of February marks the start of National Nest Box week. This week aims to encourage the putting up of nest boxes to provide safe places for birds to breed whilst helping to increase biodiversity and conservation. Read more >>
LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija 2017 field season successes 3 August, 2017. Yelkouan Shearwaters have now left their colonies around the Maltese Islands, bringing our 2017 field season at LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija almost to an end, but what a season it has been! Read more >>
Yelkouan Shearwaters and the threats of predators 11 July, 2017. Seabirds face many risks during the time they spend on land. In Malta there are three species of seabird that breed within the Islands, all of which are nocturnal, meaning they are only active during the night.
Saving Malta’s Seabirds 27 June, 2017. A blog post all about the work of the EU-funded LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project has now been entered into the #EUinmyregion blog contest! You can read the blog post and help us raise more awareness for the project by sharing and rating it here.
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 >>
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 >>
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>>
Find out about our upcoming events on our Facebook page!
25 November, 2018. L-Irdum tal-Madonna is one of Malta’s Natura 2000 protected sites and hosts threatened habitats and species. Seabirds also breed in the surrounding cliffs every year so it is important to keep the area litter-free so as not to attract predators and reduce the amount of rubbish entering the sea! This event forms part of the European Week for Waste Reduction.
22 November, 2018. Join us at Salina Nature Reserve to learn about light pollution, an important issue which is often neglected. This kind of pollution can be detrimental to human health, interfere with the natural cycles of wildlife and is unfavourable for astronomy sightings to say the least.
15 September, 2018. This area is one of Malta’s Natura 2000 protected sites and hosts threatened habitats and species. Seabirds also breed in the sea cliffs surrounding Dwejra every year so it is important to keep the area litter-free as to not attract predators!
June-July 2018. Our favourite summer adventure is on again! Join our LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija sunset boat rides to see one of Malta’s most spectacular natural phenomena – the Scopoli’s Shearwater ‘rafting’ on the water before returning to their nests in Ta’ Ċenċ cliffs.
26 May, 2018. We are celebrating European Maritime Day with a series of talks, demonstrations and games for children!
3-6 May, 2018. This year’s Valletta Green Festival is just around the corner! BirdLife Malta will be participating again in this festival which has been taking place every year since 2015. Our stand’s theme will be Wildlife Habitats and we will be carrying out a variety of activities all about the amazing places wildlife live!
28 April, 2018. Science in the Citadel takes place within the historic walls of the Citadel in Victoria, Gozo. It is a free festival that celebrates the science and technology of Malta with exhibitions relevant to Gozo’s biodiversity, geology, agriculture, seas and skies.
21 April, 2018. Be a nature hero and help us clean t he litter from L-Aħrax tal-Mellieħa!This area is one of Malta’s richest Natura 2000 protected sites – these are sites that host some of the most threatened habitats and species in Europe and a colony of around 500 pairs of Yelkouan Shearwater.
3 February, 2018. Join the project team on the first Yelkouan Shearwater Call Count of 2018. As the nesting season has started they are very vocal and it is a good time to listen for their calls at the cliffs.
September & October, 2017. The project team joined two of Valletta’s biggest events this year, raising awareness on the work of conserving Malta’s seabird species and the technology used to assist in conservation actions.
June & July, 2017. Join our LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija sunset boat rides to see one of the most spectacular Malta’s natural phenomena – the Scopoli’s Shearwater ‘rafting’ on the water before returning to their nests in Ta’ Ċenċ Cliffs.
8 June, 2017. Alongside other local NGOs, the project team participated in an awareness event at Malta National Aquarium for World Oceans Day to show what marine pollution looks like from a seabird’s eye view.
21 May, 2017. LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija celebrated European Natura 2000 Day together with BirdLife Malta, ERA and the National Museum of Natural History Malta with special events held at Il-Majjistral Visitor Centre as well as at Għadira and Is-Simar Nature Reserve.
May 11th, 2017. LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija participated in a second clean-up event this time at Mistra Bay, Mellieħa. The event was a great success and helped to raise awareness about the impacts of litter on the environment and wildlife, including seabirds like the Yelkouan Shewatwer.
April 30th, 2017. LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija last Sunday participated in the clean-up held at L-Irdum tal-Madonna in Mellieħa which brought the Valletta Green Festival 2017 to a close. This site is one of Malta’s richest Natura 2000 protected sites and it is mainly protected because it holds the main Yelkouan Shearwater colony in the Maltese Islands. Read more >>
April 25th-30th, 2017. During the last week of April LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija was represented on BirdLife Malta’s stand at the Valletta Green Festival whose theme this year was marine litter. We showed how this impacts seabirds. At the end of the week we also participated in a related Clean-up with other eNGOs. Read more >>
April 22nd, 2017. The LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija team participated in Science in the Citadel which was held in Gozo. It was a fantastic day raising awareness about the work of the project and life of the seabirds that inhabit the Maltese Islands! Apart from a stand, Project Manager Paulo Lago also led an informative talk. Read more >>
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.
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 >>
A review of current policy and legislation on light pollution in Malta with recommended mitigation measures, for Action C2 of LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija (October 2018)
Measurements of night sky brightness and identification of sources of light pollution A report by Stephen Brincat and Alexei Pace from Light Pollution Awareness Group, for Action A2 of LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija, identifying Yelkouan Shearwater colonies most affected by light pollution and presenting mitigation proposals (August 2018).
Find out more information about other LIFE projects on the links below.
The LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project is funded by the EU through the LIFE programme which has supported environmental, nature conservation and climate action projects since 1992. From 2014-2020, the LIFE programme will invest an approximate €3.4 billion in environmental and climate protection initiatives.
Contact & Team
Contact details Life Arċipelagu Garnija LIFE14 NAT/MT/991 BirdLife Malta V.O. 0052
Address: 57/28 Marina Court, Triq Abate Rigord, Ta’ Xbiex XBX 1120
Tel: +356 21347646 Direct Ext: 511
Mobile: +356 77615533 You can keep up with the team’s work on social media.
Click the icons below to view our Facebook and Twitter page.
Meet the team
Dilek Sahin, Project Manager
Dilek has a background in Biology and holds a Master’s degree in Bird Ecology. She has been studying the Yelkouan Shearwater for more than eight years, mainly in the Bosporus. She is a PhD candidate on Seabird Ecology and Conservation (Bogazici University Institute of Environmental Sciences). She has worked for several national and international conservation NGOs in Turkey where she has also coordinated two projects on seabirds. She volunteered for BirdLife Malta during the LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project in 2013.
Nicholas Barbara, Conservation Manager
Nicholas is BirdLife Malta’s Conservation Manager. He joined BirdLife Malta in 2009 to manage BirdLife Malta’s LIFE Yelkouan Shearwater Project and then 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.
Martin Austad, Project Warden Leader
Martin has a Bachelor’s degree in Earth Systems and a Master’s in Ecology. Martin began volunteering with BirdLife Malta 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.
James Crymble, Project Warden
James has a Master’s in Ecology and Conservation. He began his career in seabird conservation as a volunteer on the Isle of May, Scotland in 2015. Since then, he has worked on several seabird islands around the UK, helping with a number of conservation and research projects before joining the LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija team as Project Warden.
Hannah Greetham, Project Warden Assistant
Hannah is a passionate conservationist. Previously she participated in the monitoring of seabird colonies, species including Gannets, Terns and Storm-petrel around the UK. She has a BSc in Wildlife Conservation from Liverpool’s John Moores University. She started working on the LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project at the beginning of February 2019 and looks forward to expanding her experience in conservation, with this vulnerable Mediterranean species.
Gianmarco Santirocco, Finance Manager
Gianmarco studied Economy and Accountancy at the University of Macerata and is also a qualified accountant and auditor. After obtaining his professional qualification he moved to Malta, where he was previously an Erasmus student, and began working as BirdLife Malta’s Finance Manager and within LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija.
Arturo Palomba, Project Administrator and Senior Finance Officer
Arturo has a degree in Economics and Commerce and Master’s in Economics and Finance. Arturo spent his first year at BirdLife Malta as an EVS volunteer within the finance department and since December 2015 has been working within LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija supporting financial and administrative activities.
Nathaniel Attard, Communications Manager
Nathaniel is BirdLife Malta’s Communications Manager and joined the organisation in May 2016 after a successful 17-year career in the media. Together with his team he will be responsible for dissemination of all the information regarding LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija through a detailed communications strategy.
Mark Sultana, CEO
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.
Past project staff