LIFE PanPuffinus!

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

After successfully running four seabird-focused LIFE projects, BirdLife Malta has joined forces with its BirdLife partners from another four countries (France, Greece, Portugal, Spain), as well as Malta’s Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, and Greece’s Management Body of Cyclades Protected Areas, for a unique Mediterranean-wide collaboration for the conservation of these two seabird species. It will tackle two major threats that these seabirds meet throughout their entire life cycle: predation by invasive mammal species on land, and accidental capture by fishing gear (bycatch) at sea.

The €3.45 million project, co-funded by the European Union’s LIFE programme and Malta’s Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Animal Rights, has started in 2021 and will run till 2025.

Yelkouan Shearwater. Photo by Victor Paris
Balearic Shearwater. Photo by Jorge Meneses

Objectives

Tag attachment deployment (Hannah Greetham)

Field team in action accessing nests (Sonia Vallocchia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The overall aim of LIFE PanPuffinus! project is to improve the conservation status of the Yelkouan Shearwater and the Balearic Shearwater by tackling threats at land and sea through transboundary collaboration.

The project’s objectives are to:

– quantify the scale and extent of fisheries bycatch and pilot-testing of GFCM data collection methodology

– reduce fisheries bycatch of both species by using existing mitigation measures or developing new ones

– decrease the rate of predation by rats by implementing non-native invasive predator management and biosecurity plans

– drive changes in management through engagement with key stakeholders and by building awareness on seabirds with communities

Project partners

BirdLife Malta is collaborating with partner organisations to fulfil the project objectives. The project partnership is a mix of governmental and non-governmental organisations who have joined their efforts in past LIFE project partnerships, and which have the necessary roles and expertise to bring a desired change to the future of Yelkouan and Balearic Shearwater populations, throughout their range:

The Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture from Malta (DFA) within the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Animal Rights is responsible for managing fisheries in Maltese waters.

The Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS) is the Greek BirdLife partner and has vast experience in implementing projects for the conservation of seabirds and marine areas.

The Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO) is the French BirdLife partner and has long experience on protection of seabirds.

The Sociedad Española de Ornitología (SEO) is the Spanish BirdLife partner and has wide experience in research and conservation of seabirds, paying particular attention to the critically endangered Balearic Shearwater.

The Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves (SPEA) is the Portuguese partner of BirdLife International with vast experience in coordinating LIFE projects, invasive non-native predators eradication and control, and bycatch mitigation measures.

The Management Body of the Cyclades Protected Areas (MB-CPA) is a new private-law legal entity inspected by the Greek Ministry of Environment & Energy. MBCPA is responsible for the conservation of all habitat types and species for a total of 36 Natura 2000 areas, both terrestrial and marine, spread across the Cyclades islands.

Yelkouan Shearwater

Yelkouan Shearwater by Aris Christidis (BirdLife Greece, HOS)

Yelkouan Shearwater by Aron Tanti

The Yelkouan Shearwater (Maltese name: Garnija, Scientific name: Puffinus yelkouan) is a medium-sized seabird seen flying low over the water with rapid wingbeats.

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.

Balearic Shearwater

Balearic Shearwater by Pep Arcos (SEO BirdLife)

Balearic Shearwater by Pep Arcos (SEO BirdLife)

The Balearic Shearwater (Maltese name: Garnija Balearika, Scientific name: Puffinus mauretanicus) is slightly larger than Yelkouan Shearwater and with greyish-brown colour on its back and upper half.

This species nests only in the Balearic Islands in Spain. The most recent estimates of the Balearic shearwater population are at 19000 individuals. The first birds arrive at breeding colonies in September, laying between February and March, and juveniles leave their nests in June.

This species is the most endangered seabird in Europe, classified by IUCN as critically endangered. It is mainly threatened by predation of adults by introduced mammals (cats and rodents) and accidental capture in fishing gear such as long-lines and seine fishing methods.

Conservation

Accessing remote shearwater colonies by boat (Photo by Solenn Boucher)

Fieldwork on the cliffs (Photo by LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija)

LIFE PanPuffinus! aims to decrease bycatch incidence and predation at breeding colonies by non-native invasive predators, the two main threats for the Yelkouan and Balearic Shearwater species. Conservation strategies will include the following:

– through a multi-approach methodology, collecting information on spatio-temporal characteristics of fisheries, seabird distribution and bycatch rates to produce bycatch risk maps

– presenting and trailing with fishers different bycatch mitigation measures to deter birds from fishing boats, reduce attraction or impede access of seabirds to a potential food

– selecting and adapting the most suitable bycatch mitigation measures to local realities

– Creating a database to detail previous invasive species management efforts and current biosecurity status of the Mediterranean islands

– assessing the status of breeding Yelkouan and Balearic Shearwaters and potential invasive alien species in sites identified as biosecurity priorities using the ‘monitoring toolkit’

– carrying out rodent eradication and control efforts in priority sites

– implementing biosecurity plans to maintain predator-free status of predator-free sites or increase the efficiency of control efforts already in place

– compiling knowledge and experience of partners working with seabird bycatch in the Mediterranean

– Increasing capacity of relevant authorities through awareness-raising activities and training to respond to country-specific threats to these species

Yelkouan near nest boxes captured by camera trap

Fieldwork on the Greek cliffs (Photo by G Papadas)

Rat bites on wax blocks (Photo by Solenn Boucher)

Fieldwork on the cliffs (Photo by BirdLife Malta)

Seabirds flying towards fishing boat (Photo by miragenews.com)

Rat near shearwater nest boxes captured by camera trap

Reducing trash…and predators (Photo by Hannah Greetham)

Yelkouan Shearwater chick (Photo by Hannah Greetham)

GPS tagging (Photo by Hannah Greetham)

LIFE programme

This €3.45 million project will run for five years, and is co-funded by the European Union’s LIFE programme and Malta’s Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Animal Rights. The EU’s LIFE programme has supported environmental, nature conservation and climate action projects since 1992, and has funded previous BirdLife Malta seabird projects.

Project number: LIFE19 NAT/MT/000982

Project launch

LIFE PanPuffinus! was officially launched during an event held at BirdLife Malta’s Salina Nature Reserve on Friday 18 June 2021.

Below are the presentations delivered during the event by all the project partners. All presentations can also be found on our YouTube channel here.

More details in the press release we issued (EN and MT versions) on the day.

Project overview by LIFE PanPuffinus! Project Manager Manya Russo (BirdLife Malta)

Presentation by the Department of Fisheries & Aquaculture (Malta)

Presentation by the Sociedad Española de Ornitología, SEO (BirdLife Spain)

Presentation by the Hellenic Ornithological Society, HOS (BirdLife Greece)

Presentation by the Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux, LPO (BirdLife France)

Presentation by the Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves, SPEA (BirdLife Portugal)

News & Events

18 June, 2021. Our LIFE PanPuffinus! project has been launched! The €3.45 million LIFE PanPuffinus! project was launched this morning at BirdLife Malta’s Salina Nature Reserve. The project launch was held under the distinguished patronage of Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food & Animal Rights Anton Refalo and Parliamentary Secretary for European Funds Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi who delivered speeches for the occasion. Following a video about the species and the project, all local and international partners delivered a presentation. The event also included a welcome message by BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana. Project Manager Manya Russo delivered a project overview to the audience present at Salina. The launch was also streamed live on Facebook. Read more in the press release we issued following the official launch.

1 June, 2021. We’ve announced the date of the official launch of LIFE PanPuffinus! The event will be held at BirdLife Malta‘s Salina Nature Reserve on Friday 18 June and due to space limitations and COVID-19 restrictions will be open only to a selected audience by invitation. However, the good news is that we’ll be streaming it live for all those interested who would like to follow. Click on the Facebook event we’ve created on the project’s FB page and follow it. This is where the official project launch will be virtually shared on the day!

17 December, 2020. BirdLife Malta to continue studying seabirds on land and at sea.  After decades of uninterrupted scientific studies about Malta’s seabirds, BirdLife Malta is proud to announce that it will continue studying seabirds on land and at sea following the start of a new project it has embarked on. This will be a Mediterranean-wide collaboration for the conservation of two endemic and threatened Mediterranean seabird species: the Yelkouan Shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan) and the Balearic Shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus). Read the press release announcing the project which was issued in December 2020 here.

Videos

This video was produced for the launch of the LIFE PanPuffinus! project which was held on Friday 18 June 2021 at Salina Nature Reserve. It provides details about the project species and also describes the project’s aims to protect these endangered shearwater species by tackling the two major threats that they face throughout their life cycles: predation by invasive mammals on land, and accidental bycatch in fishing gear at sea. You can watch the video in English and also in Maltese below.

This video was produced for International Day for Biological Diversity 2021 when BirdLife Malta and Majjistral Park joined forces to create a giant image of the Yelkouan Shearwater at Golden Bay. This was done as part of the international event withNature2020 – a global collaborative artwork seeking to engage people with biodiversity and to urge for its protection. To watch the spectacular aerial footage of the Yelkouan image which was created click here.

Contact

Contact details LIFE PanPuffinus! LIFE19 NAT/MT/000982 BirdLife Malta V.O. 0052

Address: 57/28 Marina Court, Triq Abate Rigord, Ta’ Xbiex XBX 1120

Email: info@birdlifemalta.org

Tel: +356 21347645/6

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.

facebook-128

Team

Name: Manya Russo
Position: Project Manager
Manya has a background in marine conservation, having completed a bachelors in Biology and Chemistry, and a Masters in Conservation Biology from the University of Kent, UK. After her studies, Manya went on to working within international consultancies and NGOs in various fields of marine science, gaining experience in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. She has worked across different European funding frameworks and projects, and is currently the Project Manager for LIFE PanPuffinus!
Contact: manya.russo@birdlifemalta.org

Name: Martin Austad
Position: Seabird Conservation Assistant
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 was for 4 years on the LIFE+ Arcipelagu Garnija team as Project Warden. Martin is now Seabird Research Coordinator on LIFE PanPuffinus.
Contact: martin.austad@birdlifemalta.org

Name: Rita Matos
Position: Project Warden
Graduated in Marine Biology and Biotechnology on the Aquaculture and Fisheries sector at Peniche, Portugal. Since 2016, has volunteered and worked with SPEA (Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds) with seabirds on LIFE Berlengas/LIFE Ilhas Barreira projects. In 2019, Rita joined Birdlife Malta on LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project and currently works for LIFE PanPuffinus project as a Project Warden.
Contact: rita.matos@birdlifemalta.org

Name: Solenn Boucher
Position: Seabird Project Warden
Solenn has a bachelor in Population Biology and a master in Marine Ecology. She grew up on Reunion Island where she got involved in seabird research and conservation, first as part of her studies within the LIFE+Pétrels project, then as a National Park ranger. Since then, she had been involved in a bird conservation project in Central Asia and North Africa. Currently, Solenn has joined the LIFE PanPuffinus! as a seasonal Seabird Project Warden.
Contact: solenn.boucher@birdlifemalta.org

Name: Sonia Vallocchia
Position: Seabird Conservation Assistant
Sonia holds a BSc in Wildlife Conservation from the University of Kent and a MSc in Wild Animal Biology from the Royal Veterinary College, U.K. She has contributed to several bird species recovery projects in Mauritius and became fascinated with seabird conservation when assisting with the Round Island seabird conservation efforts and caring for seabirds in a wildlife center in Italy. Sonia is new to the BirdLife Malta team and joins as the Seabird Conservation Assistant providing highly valuable project support.
Contact: sonia.vallocchia@birdlifemalta.org

Name: Hannah Greetham
Position: Seabird Project Warden
Hannah has been involved in research and conservation since 2015 working and volunteering in the UK and abroad, such as the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project, City Clocks research group and SOS Cagarro. She Previously worked on the LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project before doing her Master of Research in collaboration with BirdLife Malta at the University of Glasgow, investigating the migration strategy of Yelkouan shearwaters. Now she is back on the new LIFE PanPuffinus as Project warden.
Contact: hannah.greetham@birdlifemalta.org