Arċipelagu Garnija

Arċipelagu garnija project yelkouan shearwater birdlife maltaBirdLife 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. T

he 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

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.



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>>



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>>


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

8th 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

21st 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 >>

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 detail

Life Arċipelagu Garnija


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

Project Manager

Paulo Lago

Paulo has a background of more than 10 years in bird and nature conservation. He has a Master’s in Protected Areas and has volunteered with various environmental NGOs with alien plants, bird and cetacean conservation. Paulo was Head of Research in the LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project before becoming Project Manager in LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija.

Conservation Manager

Nicholas Barbara

Nicholas Barbara

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.

Project Warden

Juan Santiago

Juan Salvador Santiago Cabello

Juan has a degree in biology and a Master’s in Conservation of Biodiversity. He has previously volunteered 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 has also worked within the LIFE funded Malta Seabird Project.

Project Warden


Martin Austad

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.

Finance Manager


Gianmarco Santirocco

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.

Project Administrator and Senior Finance Officer


Arturo Palomba

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.

Communications Manager

Nathaniel Attard

Nathaniel Attard

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 (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.

Past project staff

Dr. Benjamin Metzger – Project Manager

Edward Jenkins – Project Warden


Nancy del Carro – Project Warden

Jenni Godber – Project Warden

Mike McFarlin – Project Warden