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The Rdum Majjiesa to Ras ir-Raheb MPA

The Rdum Majjiesa to Ras ir-Raheb MPA is situated on the northwest coast of the island of Malta. It has a total area of 9520 m2 and a coastline length of around 11km. It is characterized by a number of bays and inlets with semicircular coves and Blue Clay slopes that are all typical features of the northwestern part of the island of Malta. Seacliffs are also present, especially in the southern part of the MPA. The seabed morphology is characterized by varied seascapes and bottom types.  Two rocky shoals also occur, one adjacent to Ras il-Wahx and another at Ras il-Pellegrin. Other features include gentle slopes and steep drop-offs, as well as semi-submerged caves towards the southern part of the area.  




A rich and diverse array of flora and fauna can be found within the Rdum Majjiesa to Ras ir-Raheb MPA.  Indeed this area was selected as a MPA because it supports a representative selection of all major biotopes occurring around the Maltese Islands, including:    

  • Posidonia and Cymodocea (seagrass) meadows;
  • Hard substrata with ‘forests’ of algae of many different types;
  • Fine sands of different grades
  • Coarse sands
  • Accumulations of stones and pebbles .

Various meadow types of Neptune Grass (Posidonia oceanica) occur in the area, all supporting rich assemblages of species including many of conservation and economic importance.  The Lesser Neptune Grass (Cymodocea nodosa) forms meadows on bottoms of fine sands. The alien alga Caulerpa racemosa is found in dense patches around the deeper waters off Ras il-Pellegrin. 

Photophilic (‘light loving’) algae dominate hard substrata throughout the area, the most common dominants being various species of Cystoseira.  As depth increases, photophilic algae are replaced by sciaphilic (‘shade loving’) algal associations especially those dominated by coralline algae and other red algae, together with low-growing hydroids and a variety of sponges and bryozoans. Such assemblages are very common on the submarine cliff faces and at the entrance of sea caves.  

Extensive areas of ‘bare sand’, which are devoid of macroscopic plant life, are also found in the area, particularly within coves and on the periphery of seagrass meadows.  However, these bottoms support a rich epifauna, especially of echinoderms, as well as a large variety of species that burrow in the sand to seek food and refuge (infauna). 



Seabed at Golden Bay (ir-Ramla tal- Mixquqa) (photo © Marija Sciberras)

The main activities that occur within the marine area of the Rdum Majjiesa to Ras ir-Raheb MPA fall within two main sectors: 

  • Fishing 
  • Tourism and recreation 


Fishing in the area is of the artisanal type and there is no large scale commercial fishing. Traditional fishermen use lamps (‘lampara’ fishing) to catch pelagic species (Alosa alosa, Boops boops, Sardina pilchardus, Scomber japonicus, S. scomber, Trachurus trachurus, T. mediterraneus,), small long-lines, trammel nets (‘parit’) for catching demersal fish and cephalopods, ‘parit xkitt’ (combined gillnets-trammel nets), for catching bogue and Trachurus spp., and ‘nasses’ (cane or metal basket traps)  for moray eels, octopus, spiny lobster, sardines and picarel. Traditional fishing takes place mainly near sand banks and escarpments. Hand-line fishing takes place all along the coast, except along beaches, in places where access to the sea is possible. Basket traps are also used near Fomm ir-Rih.  

During spring, small boats fish for cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) in sandy bays. A female specimen is used to attract and catch males. Gear is often lost, particularly nets and traps abandoned on the seabed, which have an adverse impact on the fish fauna, and may be hazardous for divers.  The area is also popular for spear fishing for species such as the dusky grouper (Epinephelus guaza) and common octopus (Octopus vulgaris). 

The only mooring area for fishing boats within the MPA is Gnejna Bay, where there are some 102 boats belonging to part-time fishers (that is, those whose living does not depend on fishing alone). There are no studies on the assessment of fishing effort and catches in the area falling within the MPA boundaries. 



Gnejna Bay (photo © Marija Sciberras)

Tourism and recreation 

The coastal area within the MPA incorporates one large tourist hotel at Golden Bay (properly called Ir-Ramla tal-Mixquqa). Further inland, also in the region of Golden Bay, there is another holiday complex. Notwithstanding the relatively low number of accommodation units, the area attracts a large number of visitors for bathing and other water-related recreation, particularly during the summer months.  

Six sites within the MPA are particularly popular with bathers: Golden Bay and Ghajn Tuffieha Bay are the two main tourist beaches in the area, and are especially frequented between May and October. Both are sandy beaches. Gnejna Bay is also sandy and also receives a large number of visitors, although in this case, these are mainly locals. The other three bays in the area only receive a moderate amount of visitors due to relatively difficult access. 

Scuba diving is well developed on the Maltese Islands, with about 40 diving centres. This activity is, however, not practiced much in the MPA, mainly due to difficult access from land, compared to other areas of Malta. Apart from fishing vessels, most of the seacraft that make use of the area are water sports or pleasure craft.  These comprise jet-skis, boats used for paragliding, power boats, yachts and small recreational boats. 


Ghajn Tuffieha Bay (photo © P.J. Schembri)


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Last Updated: 1 December 2011

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