The EU LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project aims to identify Marine Important Bird Areas for the three species of tubenoses seabirds breeding in the Maltese Islands: the Scopoli’s Shearwater, the Yelkouan Shearwater and the European Storm Petrel.
These species are listed under Annex I of the European Commission’s Birds Directive. Malta, as an EU member state, is obliged by law to protect their habitats on land and at sea. While the birds’ breeding colonies on land are protected as Natura 2000 sites, there is still a need to identify and protect areas they use out at sea.
The Project’s objectives are:
- To collect data on and identify the areas important for the survival of the target species within and outside Maltese territorial waters
- To evaluate this information in order to complete an inventory of Marine Important Bird Areas for Malta to present to the Maltese government
- To ensure the designation of identified marine IBA sites within Maltese territorial waters as part of Malta’s Natura 2000 network, and offshore sites as Marine Protected Areas under international agreements
- To widen the research on globally important seabird populations within the Central Mediterranean
The LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project is particularly focusing on the Exclusive Fisheries Zone of Malta that extends to the 25 nautical mile limit from the shores of the Maltese Islands. Key foraging, resting and rafting areas of the study species within this area of sea are being intensively researched between 2012 and 2014, with data to be modeled and analysed in order to identify potential Marine IBA sites in 2015. Through the creation of a GIS database, the Project will contribute to the Central Mediterranean Seabirds at Sea database. In the final stage of the Project in 2016, based on the findings of the Marine IBA report, the Maltese government authorities will designate key areas as Marine Special Protected Areas to form part of the Natura2000 network.
In addition to the tracking studies, the Project will collect baseline data on the birds’ breeding success at the different colonies across the Maltese Islands. This will allow assessment of the overall effectiveness of conservation action on the seabird colonies.