University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
UOM Main Page
Campus Map button


TITLE Under the Waves: Our Seas in Focus

LEVEL H - Higher Level


DEPARTMENT Centre for the Liberal Arts and Sciences

DESCRIPTION Participants will be presented with what Malta’s marine waters entail and which activities can be carried out in particular zones in these waters. This issue is quite a pertinent one since local sea-users need to be aware of what is legal and what not in such waters. Though our land is a limited resource, the same cannot be said for the marine area under Maltese jurisdiction; however, due to the often conflicting and multiple activities that characterize this area, particularly the immediate coastal one, such zones are extensively exploited. On the other hand there are also remote areas in our seas which are still quite pristine and their economic sustainable use should be better studied.

The Unit will include an analysis of marine and maritime issues and activities, such as fisheries, underwater archaeology, maritime uses including historic ones which may have been forgotten over time and oil exploration with an overlying resume of the pressures such uses may induce, for example threats from oil spills, illegal immigration at sea, marine environmental crimes and the like. The uses will also be discussed through a marine spatial planning perspective and participants will also learn on how observations at sea and predictions are carried out and how these can also influence types of activities (for example, bunkering) and zones at sea. The marine state of the environment will hence be discussed along with sustainable environment practices to employ whilst out at sea like avoiding anchoring on Posidonia habitats and other measures like avoiding to cutting jellyfish at sea which results in their multiplication and not their eradication.

Participants will also be given the opportunity to explore possible solutions to current problematic and conflicting marine issues and explore future scenarios of installing renewable energy systems at sea. Other management measures like the challenges of enforcement at sea will also be discussed.

The Unit will also equip participants with biological and other knowledge often necessary whilst out at sea and will compel the current knowledge that some may have on, for example, the threats sharks pose to humans with the reverse being the real truth. Other important information would be what to do if a jellyfish stings you and what is being done locally on such a swarming problem affecting many Mediterranean countries.

The need to conserve some despicable creatures like sharks and other flagship species which may at times harm fishermen’s nets and may be seen as competing with fisheries, will also discussed in accordance with current legislation and policies in place.

Legislation and policies currently adopted to protect some marine sites, Natura 2000 sites and other marine protected areas, will also be described along with how the management of such marine is expected to operate.

Overall, through this Unit, students will be able to put into context marine and maritime issues within the fundamental principles of sustainable development.

The Unit material will be delivered in such a way that it is accessible and comprehensible to participants coming from different academic or social backgrounds like divers, fishermen and other avid sea-users.

It will also involve one field visits tailored to complement basic marine environmental issues on our shores, which though amalgamated with the theoretical material covered in class, will be essential as can only be learnt in the actual ‘field’.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the Unit the student will:
- Know the biodiversity (living organisms from microbes to whales) present in our waters and also know the limitations of such waters both in terms of oceanographic phenomena and socio-economic constraints through human activities;
- Know the obligations and legality of carrying out certain activities at sea including fishing and other maritime activities. Know the different local, regional and global issues which govern the sea and which may also be paralleled in other countries and seas hence permitting such sea-users to know also their legal limits when sailing such waters;
- Understand the Marine EU & other MEAs environmental legislation and Maltese officials will have the ability of implementing and enforcing such legislation at sea.

2. Skills:

By the end of the Unit the student will be able to:
- Assess and evaluate the effectiveness of renewable energy projects and observations at sea;
- Report, in the form of an assignment, the fundamental marine issues, challenges and legislation governing our waters;
- Explain, in an assignment, the impacts of a number of human activities on the marine environment and discuss ways on how to overcome the negative consequences;
- Discuss the scientific and socio-economic context of marine issues;
- List challenges particularly facing the type of marine environment Malta has and mitigations activities including cutting edge proposals to overcome such issues.

Main Text/s:

- State of the Environment Reports: 1998, 2002, 2005 (
- Drago A., Cordina G. et al. (2004), Building the best future for the marine sector in the Maltese Islands. ‘A Vision Towards Enhancing the Marine Sector’s Contribution to the Maltese Economy in 2020’, eFORESEE Marine Pilot Foresight Project, Malta;
- IOC guide to Marine Spatial Planning:
- National Statistics Office:
- State of the Environment Report: Environmental assessment information:
- select Environmental data-Natura 2000 then select Special Areas of Conservation (for sites declared under the Habitats Directive) or Special Protection Areas (for sites declared under the Birds Directive) for the type of Natura 2000 you want to view on the map
- click on the GN 851 of 2001 (
- Important Natural Areas refer also to :
- Marine habitat types data collected from EIAs click on the MapServer in the top right hand corner-then select Environmental data-Marine and Marine Habitats when prompted to select Map content

Supplementary reading:

- Posidonia oceanica baseline survey- click on the MapServer -Environmental data-Marine– and Posidonia baseline survey when prompted to select Map content.
- Results of Sea Bed Surveys around Filfla Islet (EU –ERDF Project):
- For guidelines on assessing projects and plans which significantly affect Natura 2000 sites
- For Managing protected Natura 2000 sites:
- For guidelines on set up of Natura 2000 in the marine environment:
- Guidelines and designation framework for Marine Protected Areas (2005):;
- Guidelines on Policy & Design Guidance on Fish farming:
- Malta Significant Wave Height Study, Malta Maritime Authority, December 2003.
- MEPA (1995) Marsaxlokk Bay Local Plan:
- MEPA (2006) North West Local Plan:
- Green Paper on a Future Maritime Policy for the European Union:
- MEPA (2006) Central Malta Local Plan:
- MEPA (2006) North Harbour Local Plan:
- MEPA (2003) Grand Harbour Local Plan:
- MEPA (2006) South Malta Local Plan:
- Coastal Strategy Topic Paper and other review topic papers of the Structure Plan: (
- ICZM on MEPA’s webpage: & Implementing ICZM in Malta:;
- Sustainable development:
- A Sustainable Development Strategy for the Maltese Islands 2006-2016 (NCSD report

Additional Reading pack compiled by lecturer.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Fieldwork

Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Randall Caruana
Alan Deidun
Timothy Gambin
Adam Gauci
Joseph Gauci
Andrew Mallia
Carmen Mifsud
Louise Spiteri

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
PLAS Applications are now being received
Click here to apply for PLAS Units commencing in February 2018
PLAS Testimonial Videos

Click here to view PLAS Testimonial Videos.

Apply now for PLAS Units on offer. 

PLAS Gift Voucher Facility
A mindful gift - short courses for relatives, friends & colleagues.
Parking Permit for PLAS Students
PLAS students can apply for a parking permit through the KSU website. Click here for more info.
Statute, Regulations Guidelines
Click here for Centre's Statute, Programme's Regulations, and Liberal Studies Awards Guidelines
PLAS Nature Photography Exhibition
Click here for more information on the PLAS Nature Photography Exhibition
LAS2100 Research Project
For more information click here
PLAS Introductory Meeting Presentations

Click here to access the presentations delivered during the PLAS Introductory Meeting.

The Programme in the Liberal Arts and Sciences
The University of Malta’s new flagship Programme in the Liberal Arts and Sciences ...

Log In back to UoM Homepage