EMPAFISH (European Marine Protected Areas as tools for FISHeries management and conservation) is a project supported by the European Community under its Sixth Framework Programme with a total budget of €2.4 million, which commenced in March 2005 and will run until February 2008.

The three main objectives of the EMPAFISH project are:

(1) To investigate the potential of different regimes of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Europe as measures to protect sensitive and endangered species, habitats and ecosystems from the effects of fishing;
(2) To develop quantitative methods to assess the effects of marine protected areas; and
(3) To provide the EU with a set of integrated measures and policy proposals for the implementation of MPAs as fisheries and ecosystem management tools.

The EMPAFISH consortium consists of 14 European research and academic institutions from Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Britain and Malta and brings together scientists with expertise in marine ecology, fisheries, ecological modelling, and coastal area management particularly as relating to MPAs.

The project will collate and analyse existing ecological, fisheries, and socio-economic data from 20 MPAs selected as case studies. These include MPAs from the Azores, the Canary Islands, Spain, France, Italy, and Malta. Malta is contributing two case studies to the EMPAFISH Project: the 25 nautical miles Fisheries Management Zone round the Maltese Islands, established when Malta became a member of the European Union in 2004 as a continuation of the previous Exclusive Fishing Zone set up in 1971, and the candidate MPA from Rdum Majjiesa to Ras ir-Raheb, which has recently been declared a ‘Special Area of Conservation’ and a candidate NATURA 2000 site.

The Malta team within the EMPAFISH consortium consists of Prof. Patrick J. Schembri, Dr Joseph A. Borg and Mr Mark Dimech from the Department of Biology of the University of Malta, Dr Philip Smith from the University Marine Biological Station Millport (University of London), and Dr Matthew Camilleri from the Malta Centre for Fisheries Sciences at Marsaxlokk, Malta, who is acting as consultant to the team.

The task of the Malta team is to identify and quantify ecological, fishery and socio-economic effects of the MPAs constituting the Malta case studies, and thus to contribute data, together with the other partners, for the subsequent global meta-analysis, modelling and identification of indicators of the performance of MPAs with respect to their objectives under the different management regimes and typologies identified. This is the first time that a local MPA is being studied and monitored in this way and where data from deep waters are being analysed for the purpose.

The final product of the EMPAFISH project will be guidelines and tools to be integrated into the decision-making and management process in order to provide an improved and harmonised basis for designing, selecting and managing protected areas within the European Union to achieve the fisheries, conservation and other productive uses objectives of MPAs.

Further information about the EMPAFISH project can be obtained from the project website at http://www.um.es/empafish/ and about the Malta case studies from the Department of Biology website at:

The 20 EMPAFISH case studies. Participating countries are shaded.