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Title: Marine special protection areas : A report outlining national mechanisms being used to develop the Marine IBA / SPA programmes across Europe with recommendations for Malta
Authors: Raine, Helen
Borg, John J.
Raine, Andre
Keywords: BirdLife Malta
Environment protection -- Malta
Wildlife management -- Europe
Wildlife management -- Malta
Sea birds -- Malta
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: BirdLife Malta
Citation: Borg, J.J., Raine, H. & Raine, A. (2008). Marine special protection areas : A report outlining national mechanisms being used to develop the Marine IBA / SPA programmes across Europe with recommendations for Malta. Malta: BirdLife Malta
Abstract: The European Commission requires that Member States designate Marine Special Protection Areas (SPAs) by 2008 or, where this is not possible, indicate what measures they will take to move towards future designation as rapidly as possible. This document outlines a “roadmap” for the Maltese government to undertake this work. Marine SPA designation is usually preceded by Marine Important Bird Area (IBA) identification. Currently, no Marine SPAs have been designated in Malta. Designation is obligatory for qualifying sites within Maltese waters up to 25 nautical miles (NM). There are several key species in Malta for which Marine SPAs can be designated. Malta has internationally important breeding colonies of Yelkouan Shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan), Cory’s Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) and European Storm-petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus), as well as internationally important numbers of migrating sea ducks (particularly through the Gozo channel). There is therefore a pressing need to identify Marine Important Bird Areas (IBAs) as a first step and to designate these as Marine SPAs. Identification of Marine IBAs is challenging because of the paucity of existing data and the logistical difficulties of research at sea. Overcoming these challenges is possible (as has been demonstrated already in other EU countries, in particular Germany, Spain and Portugal) but requires the provision of sufficient funds to undertake surveys using costly but effective census techniques and the use of statistical models. Therefore, a major, carefully planned and suitably financed project is necessary to ensure that Malta can meet its EU obligations in designating Marine SPAs. Some provisional data are available for the designation of Marine SPAs. For example, BirdLife Malta has been collecting bird data since the 1960s and some of this information can be used to identify Marine IBAs. The ongoing EU LIFE Yelkouan Shearwater Project is also collecting detailed data using a range of methods, which will assist in the identification of Marine IBAs for this species (although it should be stressed that this project alone will not be sufficient to complete this work). There are however substantial data gaps which will require filling. For example, almost nothing is known about marine habitat use by both Cory’s Shearwaters and European Storm-petrels away from their immediate breeding colonies. Even for Yelkouan Shearwater, little is known of the marine behaviour of birds from colonies beyond the Rdum tal-Madonna colony (which is the focus of the LIFE project). The use of the marine environment by migratory sea ducks also requires considerable study. BirdLife Malta and the LIFE project partners (supported by the EU and the Government) are the only bodies which currently have the skills and experience to undertake Marine IBA identification and they are already carrying out considerable research in this area. Key recommendations to the Government to meet its EU obligations include; (i) designate the Gozo Channel as a Marine SPA by end 2008 (data exist but require analysis by BirdLife Malta, which we hope to complete shortly); (ii) designate seaward extensions to coastal SPAs holding breeding colonies (additional data to that presented by Borg and Sultana (2004) exists, but requires analysis; in some cases, more research will also be required, but at key sites such as Ta Cenc, Rdum tal-Madonna and Dwejra, the information is likely to be sufficient to warrant the designation of extensions by the end of 2008); (iii) based on this document, plan a project to collect the missing data and complete a full Marine IBA inventory for the Maltese Islands with much of this work completed by 2010 and clear milestones laid out for the remainder; and (iv) commence the research and identification process for Marine IBAs according to the findings of the plan suggested in point ii. BirdLife Malta therefore expects that that the SPA designation process for sites where research has already been completed for Marine IBAs should commence by the end of 2008, in line with EU obligations. This is principally the Gozo Channel, but it should also be possible to designate some key nearshore shearwater rafting zones. In addition, BirdLife Malta expects that, by the end of 2008, the Maltese Government will develop a plan for Marine SPA designation research and begin to secure funding for this. BirdLife Malta and the LIFE project can assist in this process. This process should lead to a large-scale, fully-funded project to fill gaps in knowledge, develop an inventory of Marine IBAs in Malta and enable designation.
Appears in Collections:Melitensia Works - ERCSciZoo

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