Malta live blog Day 1: International workshop on Marine Protected Areas

View the Day 2 blog here.

View the Day 3 blog here.

5:06 pm: Ben Lascelles from BirdLife International (not to be confused with the Ben from BirdLife Malta) sums up the first day.

Photo 1

Photo 2

17 nationalities are represented at the workshop today and more than 100 people will pass through. Compared to 2009 where around 30 people were present, this goes to show that people do care about seabirds!

4:47 pm: Ben from Birdlife Malta shows that to help maltese seabirds, we need to protect birds off the coast of Africa including western and northern Africa. Birds have no boundaries!

Ben from Malta

4:25 pm: Protecting breeding colonies is important, but that is not the whole story. Protecting foraging areas is just as important, if not more.

So after identifying those important areas, it leads us to management and crunching that field data.This is all about good marine spatial planning and incorporating and analysing the economic activities and finding solutions that can benefit seabird conservation and the economy.

Or, as Steffan Oppel says, “how to make sure you conserve seabirds but try to piss off as little amount of people as possible”.

3:52 pm: 


3:43 pm: 


3:16 pm: How do we translate all that seabird conservation data into identifying protected areas?

As Marguerite Tarzia, BirdLife Europe’s European Marine Conservation Officer has just finished explaining, BirdLife has standarised a method so that all our Partners use a robust scientific methodology to help identify their most important areas for their seabirds.

This is known as the “toolkit” and you can find more information about it here.

1:26 pm: How do scientists even find those seabirds?

Stay up late nights to find seabirds in their nests, ride a boat and track their radio signals (while also encountering some dolphins), and track them from up above.


1:05 pm: Gozo, Malta – a lovely setting for a marine conference!

Gozo, Malta - a lovely setting for a marine conference!

1:00 pm: The Yelkouan Shearwater was the first seabird Birdlife Malta started to tackle.
How are they studying these birds? Tracking with GPS satellite loggers. Attach them to the bird and see where they fly off to and how long they stay in certain areas. The GPS trackers showed us that these birds that breed in Malta were flying to the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea regions.

More information here.

12:52 pm: Today, ca 4500-7000 Scopoli’s Shearwater are breeding in Malta, the Yelkouan Shearwater breeding population is ca 1700 and represents 10% of the total population of this species (endemic to Mediterranean), and the Storm Petrel breeding population is around 5.000 – 8.000.

12:36 pm: Before BirdLife Malta was founded in 1962, not much information was known about seabirds breeding in Malta. So a couple of scientists got together to do some field operations. This included making sure the navy wouldn’t accidentally bomb them – as in 1968, this was a high possibility.

There are two main problems facing these breeding birds: humans and invasive alien species (rats). As Joe Sultana, founder of BirdLife Malta, puts it, we work to eradicate rats from the islands, but we cannot eradicate humans – but we can teach them. The Scopoli’s Shearwater has already decreased by 2.000 birds since 2004. This is concerning.
So far, the only thing that has allowed for their survival is the inaccessibility of nesting sites. People have now more access to these innaccessible areas and therefore working with the community is important to identify illegal activities on the cliffs and to change beahviour.
10:38 am: Following Friday’s stakeholder conference on the Nature Directives – which saw politicians, NGOs and EU officials get together to decide on the future of nature laws in Europe– the message was clear: the Nature Directives are fit for purpose, but they need stronger implementation and enforcement. The BirdLife partnership is pushing forward this implementation in the marine realm.

“Collecting the data and research is only the beginning, sharing this knowledge is important for decision making,” said Mark Sultana, CEO of BirdLife Malta.

And this is what we will do. Sultana’s remarks opened a three-day international workshop on Marine Protected Areas in the Mediterranean for seabirds (23-25 November) on the Maltese island of Gozo. We will be live blogging from here to bring you the results of months of field observations and data analysis, starting with BirdLife Malta’s first Important Bird Areas (IBAs) for Malta.

These identified IBAs are now being placed in the hands of the Maltese government for them to be designated. But it won’t end there. As the Maltese government pointed out, correct conservation objectives need to be set and sites managed according to that.

This matches EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella’s statement at the Malta workshop, where he points out the two challenges ahead: effective management and effective international cooperation.

Watch the message from Commissioner Vella here.

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