LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija

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.

Closing webinar

A webinar on seabird conservation in the Mediterranean, with a special focus on the Yelkouan Shearwater, was held on 9 and 10 July 2020 by the LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija (LIFE14 NAT/MT/991) project. This project closing webinar was organised by the project partners BirdLife Malta, Transport Malta and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). It was a key opportunity to share the results of the LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project as well as discuss the recent conservation issues and approaches to set the way forward for international collaborations in protecting our common seabird heritage in the Mediterranean.

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic situation, this webinar replaced the project closing conference which was planned for the end of the project. The two-day webinar was held on Zoom.

The Mediterranean is a semi-closed ocean which hosts important endemic seabird species as well as constantly-increasing human populations along its coasts. Being one of the largest global tourism destinations, the Mediterranean coast attracts millions of tourists, which results in increasing coastal development. And this leaves Mediterranean seabirds facing more and more pressure from human activities each year such as increasing predation by invasive mammals, light pollution and disturbance due to overlapping peak tourism and breeding seasons. In view of this only a small portion of breeding seabird populations are considered as safe in the Mediterranean.

Seabirds like shearwaters and storm-petrels usually live out of sight and therefore generating support for their conservation requires additional effort. In order to provide them with the suitable protection we need to bring together a wide variety of stakeholders with diverse interests to raise the awareness needed, and to find solutions to reduce pressure from human activities on the breeding Mediterranean seabirds.

This webinar showcased the success of one such collaboration between different stakeholders for the conservation of the Mediterranean endemic Yelkouan Shearwater. Moreover, the meeting facilitated the coordination of seabird conservation on a regional scale through capacity-building and the sharing of specialist knowledge.

The webinar opened with a keynote speech on the history of seabird conservation in Malta and challenges for seabird conservation in the Mediterranean, and then continued with the presentation of the project’s key results. The presentations were by a session on knowledge-sharing and gap analysis for the entire Mediterranean region, identifying the actions needed to be taken to implement the international conservation action plan of the species. On the second day of the webinar there were online workshops on light pollution and current technologies to monitor seabird populations.

Click here for the programme of the first day which included keynote speeches, presentations and a general discussion.

The second day consisted of two workshops. Click here for the agenda of the first workshop (Monitoring and mitigating the impact of light pollution on breeding shearwaters and petrels), and here for the agenda of the second workshop (Best practices in obtaining population estimates and monitoring the breeding colonies of Yelkouan Shearwater).

Webinar recording
Click here to watch the webinar Zoom recording.

You can access the webinar presentations below. Click on the titles to open the presentations (files in PDF format).

Seabird conservation in the Mediterranean: Current Status, challenges and opportunities by Dr Maria Dias, Senior Scientist, BirdLife Europe

History of seabird conservation in Malta by John Joseph Borg, Senior Curator, National Museum of Natural History, Malta

Recent seabird conservation work in Malta through EU LIFE funding by Nicholas Barbara, BirdLife Malta Head of Conservation

LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija: A Success Story on the Conservation of Yelkouan Shearwater in the Maltese Archipelago by Dilek Sahin, LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija Project Manager

Predator control and biosecurity for the conservation of Yelkouan Shearwater: Methods, challenges, results and roadmap for future by Martin Austad, LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija Project Warden Leader and Karen Varnham, Island Restoration Officer, RSPB

Life in the dark: Monitoring and reducing light pollution for the conservation of Yelkouan Shearwaters by James Crymble, Light Pollution Officer, BirdLife Malta

Reducing the disturbance from maritime activities on breeding Yelkouan Shearwaters in Malta by Dilek Sahin, LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija Project Manager

National Yelkouan Shearwater Conservation Action Plan by Darrin Stevens, Deputy Director at the Environment & Resources Authority (ERA)


Following the success we had last year and in 2018, even this year we followed the action at the cliffs with #NestWatch! We captured footage from different Yelkouan Shearwater nesting sites as the birds returned to Malta for the breeding period. Here are the four videos in the series for 2020. The breeding season has now come to an end!

To watch last year’s series of #NestWatch videos click on the playlist we’ve created on our YouTube channel here. In 2019 we produced a total of seven short videos documenting the different phases of the Yelkouan Shearwater breeding period from February to July together with a summary with the highlights! We did the same in 2018 with a total of nine videos which can be seen here.


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.

Project Partners

BirdLife Malta is 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. 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.

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.


Notices to Mariners issued for the conservation of threatened seabird 18 September, 2020. A number of Notices to Mariners have been issued by Transport Malta for the conservation of the Yelkouan Shearwater in Malta – a threatened seabird. These will minimize the impact of boat-based tourism at a total of nine sensitive breeding sites of this vulnerable seabird and are the result of a partnership between BirdLife Malta‘s LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project and Transport Malta which has led to a compromise being reached to safeguard the Yelkouan Shearwater in the Maltese Islands. Read more>>

Protecting the nocturnal environment for seabirds and beyond! 31 July, 2020. With the aim of protecting Malta’s nocturnal environment for seabirds and beyond, we have released a set of Guidelines for Ecologically Responsible Lighting n the Maltese Islands. These guidelines are being published independently of the light pollution guidelines published by the Government earlier this year, to which we contributed with data-driven proposals. These guidelines are being shared with relevant stakeholders such as local councils, architects and developers. Read more in the press release here. You can also find the guidelines here.

LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project Closing Webinar 9-10 July, 2020. Our project is coming to an end. To celebrate the success of the project over the past five years we organised a two-day Closing Webinar on Zoom which replaced the project closing conference due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation. The webinar on seabird conservation in the Mediterranean, with a special focus on the Yelkouan Shearwater, was organised by the project partners BirdLife Malta, Transport Malta and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). It was a key opportunity to share the results of the LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project as well as discuss the recent conservation issues and approaches to set the way forward for international collaborations in protecting our common seabird heritage in the Mediterranean.

Project Monitoring Meeting for the final year of LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija 10 March, 2020. During their fifth meeting with the external monitoring team, the project team provided the Project Monitor with an update on the progress which was registered in project actions and with a plan regarding the final fieldwork season in the project. All conservation actions will continue in the final year of the project and will be presented at the Project Closing Conference in July.

We have saved Dwejra! 2 December, 2019. We made it! Dwejra has been saved. The court appeal filed by BirdLife Malta on behalf of the coalition of 15 NGOs to #savedwejra has been won and Dwejra is now safe from the threat of further development and its night sky has been protected. In the final hearing of the case, the Court of Appeal upheld our arguments against the EPRT’s decision to grant the permit for the proposed extension of a restaurant at Dwejra, which means the permit is being revoked. Read more>>

It’s the fledging season for Scopoli’s Shearwaters…and they need your help! 7 October, 2019. BirdLife Malta is calling on the public to look out for any stranded seabirds that may have become disorientated when fledging for the first time. At this time of year, young Scopoli’s Shearwaters fledge and leave their remote cliff-side nesting locations for the open sea. However, the light pollution from bright coastal lights can leave these young seabirds disorientated increasing their chances of becoming stranded inland. Read more>>

The team attends Biosecurity Workshop and Marine Task Force 16-17 September, 2019. In September LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project staff attended the International Workshop on Eradication and Biosecurity in Uppsala, Sweden and presented their ongoing rat control work at Yelkouan Shearwater breeding colonies. The workshop was organised by the new LIFE project Biosecurity for LIFE led by RSBP, which aims to increase capacity in reducing the risks of invasive species’ incursions on the many UK islands with nesting seabirds, but also raise awareness and expertise throughout Europe.  Speakers from 11 countries presented their work to prevent or control invasive predators such as rats and cats on islands, including LIFE PonDerat and our very own Project Warden James Crymble. As always it was very valuable to share and learn from each other’s experiences in managing one of the biggest threats to seabirds. After the workshop, the team also attended BirdLife’s Marine Task Force meeting to discuss the progress that BirdLife partners are making on marine conservation in Europe.

More secrets revealed about Filfla Storm-petrels 26 July, 2019. The first time movements of Malta-ringed Storm-petrel to the Aegean Sea were recorded by BirdLife Greece. The Storm-petrel ringed in 2008 by BirdLife Malta on Filfla was recovered in a colony on a Greek islet, meaning that the bird is over 11 years old. In the same week, BirdLife Malta ringers on Filfla recaptured a bird first ringed on the same islet in 1991, making it over 29 years old. Even this is not a record…back in 2013 a Storm-petrel ringed in 1981 was recovered, making it over 32 years old. Read more>>

Overwhelming support by the general public to save Dwejra 6 July, 2019. The 15 NGOs that united in one effort to save Dwejra – which provides the breeding habitat for Scopoli’s Shearwaters – from further development have been overwhelmed by the massive support by the general public. Following the scandalous decision overturning the PA’s refusal for further development in Dwejra, this front of NGOs urged people to donate and raise funds so that a court appeal could be filed. In less than two days over €3,000 were donated. Read more>>

Monitoring seabirds under the Marine Strategy Monitoring Directive July, 2019. Another good collaboration between the BirdLife Malta seabird team and the Environment & Resources Authority (ERA) is established. The seabird team is given the responsibility of research and monitoring of seabirds for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) reporting. Accordingly, during summer the team will be conducting ringing visits for Mediterranean Storm-petrels to Filfla and acoustic monitoring to obtain the indices of population sizes of the Scopoli’s Shearwaters in the Maltese Archipelago. With our experienced and enthusiastic team, we are happy to take part in fulfilling our national requirements in the monitoring and conservation of seabirds.

Visit by the external project monitoring team 26 June, 2019. LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija team had the fourth visit from the external monitoring team this month. We presented the progress in the conservation actions and the project in general to the monitoring team. And then the monitoring team joined us for a patrolling trip hosted by Transport Malta, around a few of our project sites to get information on the conservation and monitoring actions.

Young seabirds need your help! 17 June, 2019. Yelkouan Shearwater is a threatened seabird species endemic to the Mediterranean. Their chicks leave their nests for the open sea, under the cover of darkness, from mid-June and throughout July. However, this journey can be dangerous. Light pollution from our towns and villages causes many of these young birds to become stranded on land. We are once again calling on the public to help rescue these birds. Without your help, they will never get back to the sea again. Read more>>

An important visitor from RSPB April, 2019 This month the project team received a visit from Leigh Lock, Senior Species Recovery Officer, RSPB. Leigh joined the team to see how the conservation actions are implemented and is offering external advice on current and future conservation actions for seabirds in Malta. Safe to say he enjoyed a bit of the Maltese sun and was impressed by our work on seabird conservation in the Mediterranean!

Familiar faces at Rdum tal-Madonna cliffs March, 2019. This month we received a visit from the team members of the first LIFE project on Yelkouan Shearwaters; Helen and Andre Raine. Helen and Andre worked together with John Joseph Borg and many other stakeholders to reduce the threats to the most important breeding colony of the Yelkouan Shearwater in Malta. Their work resulted in increased breeding success in this colony, thanks to the rat control programme and reduced disturbance from boat parties, thanks to a Notice to Mariners specific to the seabird and the site. They have also conducted valuable research to track the movements of the breeding and young Yelkouan Shearwaters within the Mediterranean Basin. More detail about their work can be found here. LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija team keeps managing the threats and monitoring the breeding Yelkouan Shearwaters at this colony and beyond to ensure the long-term protection of the species in Malta.

First Filfla visit of the season to monitor the Yellow-legged Gulls March, 2019. We are so excited to start with Filfla visits. As a strict nature reserve, Filfla is one of the most exciting places for the team to work in Malta. Filfla holds almost the whole Maltese population of the breeding Mediterranean Storm-petrels, with an estimated 8,000 pairs. The island also hosts breeding Yellow-legged Gulls, which is a natural predator for Storm-petrels. BirdLife Malta has been monitoring the population size of both species and the rate of predation for a long time and LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija team is keeping the ball running. Later in the season, we will visit the island for Stormies too.

The team is starting the new breeding season February, 2019. The project is entering its 4th year, with an additional Project Warden Assistant, Hannah Greetham, in the team. After two years of intensive data collection on the distribution, numbers and threats to the species the team will continue implementing the conservation actions and monitor the results at the project sites. This year we are going to continue our rat control programme at eight breeding colonies to increase the breeding success of the Yelkouan Shearwater. We are going to focus on light pollution mitigation especially understanding the challenges and opportunities in managing this threat through a pilot project at Ċirkewwa Ferry Terminal. As it is well known from the previous years, fledgling seabirds are getting stranded due to wrong and excessive use of lights around the breeding colonies. We will also focus on maritime activities around important and sensitive seabird breeding areas and will work with Transport Malta to identify the actions to reduce the threats at those sensitive sites. For sure nothing is possible without creating more awareness among stakeholders and the general public on these birds, the threats they are facing and the solutions in the Maltese Archipelago so a lot of outreach work is also ahead for the LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija team.

New Project Manager for LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija January, 2019. We are starting the new year with a change in the team; our new project manager Dilek Sahin is taking over from Paulo Lago. Dilek has been studying Yelkouan Shearwaters mainly in one of the critical migration bottlenecks for the species, the Bosphorus, by monitoring the seasonal activity and numbers. Since this is an area that the majority of the global population is suspected to migrate through, she has been focusing on basin-scale movements and connectivity, which we believe will contribute to the extent of our seabird conservation work. Besides seabirds, she has worked for a couple of environmental NGOs in Turkey on using citizen science in conservation and science communication.

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 >>

Shearwater chicks hand-reared for the first time 30 June, 2016. BirdLife Malta has successfully reared two Yelkouan Shearwater (Garnija) chicks that were found astray from their nests. 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>>


Boats and birds…the way forward! 20 May, 2020. BirdLife Malta’s seabird team have been working hard over the past few years of the LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project to assess and reduce the impact of boat-based tourism on breeding Maltese seabirds, with focus on the most vulnerable species inhabiting the coastal cliffs and islands here, the Yelkouan Shearwater, which is endemic to this region. Read more>>

First Yelkouan eggs of the season discovered! 16 March, 2020. The first critical stage of the breeding season for the Yelkouan Shearwater has started with the discovery of the first Yelkouan eggs of the season! The seabird team were conducting routine checks on the cliffs last week when they made the discoveries at two different nesting sites. Read more>>

Dwejra kept dark 29 November, 2019. The historic decision by the Court of Appeal to revoke the permit for an extension to a restaurant in Dwejra is the culmination of months of campaigning by environmental NGOs to avert further development in one of the few remaining natural sites in Malta and Gozo. We’re proud to have led this campaign and relieved that this Natura 2000 site, Dark Sky Heritage Area and bird sanctuary will remain protected. Read more>>

Why darkness matters 11 November, 2019. The Maltese Islands are home to a globally important population of Yelkouan Shearwater and European Storm-petrel. These species are intensely sensitive to artificial light at night. Increase of artificial light in Malta is damaging to them. What can we do to save our seabirds from light pollution? This blog provides the answers to this question. Read more>>

The tremendous highs and not so dramatic lows of the 2019 Yelkouan Shearwater breeding season 28 August, 2019. The cliffs of the Maltese Islands are a little quieter as the Yelkouan Shearwaters have departed and are well into their winter migrations. This blog takes a look back at the busy season which was full of vital conservation work for this threatened, yet under-studied species. Read more>>

An evening with the Scopoli’s! 13 August, 2019. Every year hundreds of people join our annual sunset shearwater boat trips which are a great way to explain to people about our seabirds and the work we do to help them. This blog summarized this year’s boat trips, with over 400 members of the public having the opportunity to see up close rafts of Scopoli’s Shearwaters beneath Ta’ Ċenċ cliffs in Gozo. Read more>>

Findings on Malta’s breeding seabirds published in international journals 20 May, 2019. Exciting research carried out by BirdLife Malta under two successive seabird projects, which include LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija, was published in international scientific journals. Read more>>

Light Pollution: The true costs 14 December, 2018. The project team held a seminar together with Alternattiva Demokratika Żgħażagħ (ADŻ) and the Light Pollution Awareness Group (LPAG) on the topic of light pollution in the Maltese Islands. The seminar featured talks from invited speakers on the many aspects of light pollution. 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!

Our Secretive Neighbours: Seabirds of the Maltese Archipelago

27 May, 2020. Seabirds are one of the most threatened group of birds globally and Maltese seabirds are not an exception. Join us for this online presentation to learn more about your secretive neighbours, discover more about their lives, and hear what we’ve been doing to provide them with a safe home. You will also learn what you can do to help these species. More details here.

Seabirds as sentinels of the sea

22 April, 2020. What can seabirds tell us about the state of our seas, the state of our coastal habitats and global issues like climate change? The Maltese Archipelago hosts three pelagic seabird species during their breeding season. All three are of conservation concern and depend on the marine environment for their life. Although out of sight due to their nocturnal and secretive behaviour, seabirds in Malta are threatened by several human activities on land and at sea and climate change is probably worsening these threats. If you want to know more join our talk as part of the Earth Day 2020 special event being held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. More details here.

Talk at the Tower: Why Darkness Matters

22 March, 2020. Did you know that coastal development and high levels of artificial light at night in the Maltese Islands are negatively impacting our vulnerable breeding seabird species? Join one of two talks about light pollution and its impact on Malta’s breeding seabirds being held at Dwejra Tower in collaboration with Din l-Art Ħelwa.

Walk with the Yelkouans

14 March, 2020. Join us for a visit to the Yelkouan Shearwater colony at Majjistral Nature & History Park to experience the eerie calls of incoming birds. Before the walk, we will also have a talk about the LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project.

Action for bird protection

16 November, 2019. Join our cleanup at L-Irdum tal-Madonna in Mellieħa as part of European Week for Waste Reduction 2019. This is a Natura 2000 site which hosts the largest Yelkouan Shearwater colony in Malta.

Shearwater Boat Trips with LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija

19, 20, 26 July & 9 August, 2019. Sunset boat rides to Ta’ Ċenċ cliffs in Gozo to enjoy one of Malta’s most spectacular natural phenomena – the Scopoli’s Shearwaters rafting on the water before returning to their nests in the cliffs.

A Night with the Scopoli’s

21 June, 2019. Learn more about the seabirds nesting in the Maltese Archipelago, their habitats, the threats that they face and what you can do to help them. Above all, join us for a short walk along the cliffs (1km each way but on rough path) after sunset to listen to the Scopoli’s Shearwaters’ calling frenzy.

World Oceans Day at the Aquarium

8 June, 2019. The Aquarium celebrates World Oceans Day every day…. but, this day is a day we and other NGOs all get together in one place bringing you a variety of different exhibitions stands and activities.

International Day for Biological Diversity – Talk & Sunset walk

22 May, 2019. We will be celebrating the International Day for Biological Diversity, a good opportunity to gather people and discuss about the importance of protecting the biological diversity of our islands including the breeding Yelkouan Shearwater. Enjoy the sunset and learn more while watching/hearing the Yelkouans and bats at Majjistral Park.

European Maritime Day

19 May, 2019. A day dedicated to the sea, to awareness and respect. With this experience, we aim to promote cultural awareness and marine education in an enjoyable, engaging and emotional way.

Nature and bird conservation at Science in the Citadel

27 April, 2019. Join us for this year’s Science in the Citadel in Gozo to discover more about our nature reserves and the scientific study of bird ringing. At this year’s edition we will focus on the importance of this vital conservation tool for the study of Malta’s seabirds which we are presently monitoring through our ongoing LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project.

Walk with the Yelkouans

23 March, 2019. We will visit the Yelkouan Shearwater colony at Majjistral Park to experience the eerie calls of incoming birds. Before the walk, we will also have a talk about the LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project to learn how the project team is using technology to protect this species.

Cleanup at L-Irdum tal-Madonna

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.

Shining a light on Pollution

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.

Dwejra (Gozo) Cleanup – World Cleanup Day

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!

LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija Shearwater Boat Trips

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.

European Maritime Day

26 May, 2018. We are celebrating European Maritime Day with a series of talks, demonstrations and games for children!

Valletta Green Festival

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!

Science in the Citadel

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.

Cleanup at L-Aħrax tal-Mellieħa

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.

Yelkouan Shearwater Call Count 2018

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.

Science in the City & Notte Bianca 2017

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.

Shearwater Boat Trips

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.

World Oceans Day

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.

Natura 2000 Day

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.

Clean-up at Mistra Bay

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.

Clean-up at L-Irdum tal-Madonna

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 >>

Marine litter and seabirds on the agenda

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 >>

LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija at Science in the Citadel

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 >>

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 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 >>

Project report

LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija layman’s report (English)

LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija layman’s report (Maltese)

Project video

The LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project, which sought to secure the Maltese Islands for the Yelkouan Shearwater, came to an end in 2020. In the five years of the project much has been achieved: from establishing more accurate estimates of the breeding population to gathering information about their breeding biology as well as identifying and tackling threats to the species such as light pollution, rat predation, boat disturbance and impacts from site user activities. We have highlighted the successes and challenges of LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project in this final video!

Produced by Pineapple Media Ltd.



After-LIFE Conservation Plan for LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija. This After-LIFE plan of the project provides a list of actions that need to be continued and suggests a framework to carry them out. The focus of this After-LIFE plan is the continuation of the effective management of the sites where Yelkouan Shearwaters are breeding and a continued research and monitoring of colonies to ensure the continued protection of the species in the Maltese Archipelago.




Code of Conduct for commercial boat operators. A voluntary code of conduct shared with commercial boat operators which all mariners are encouraged to follow, so as to contribute to the conservation of the threatened Yelkouan Shearwater in Malta by reducing the impact of their activities to a minimum (September 2020).






Guidelines for Ecologically Responsible Lighting. A set of guidelines for ecologically responsible lighting in the Maltese Islands issued with the aim of protecting Malta’s nocturnal environment for seabirds and beyond (July 2020).






Desktop review of current policy and legislation on light pollution. 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).









LIFE programme

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

Email: [email protected]

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.




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

Paulo Lago, Project Manager            






Dr. Benjamin Metzger, Project Manager






Edward Jenkins, Project Warden Ed






Nancy del Carro, Project Warden






Jenni Godber, Project Warden






Mike McFarlin, Project Warden






Juan SantiagoJuan Salvador Santiago Cabello, Project Warden






Hannah Greetham, Project Warden Assistant