Malta live blog Day 2: International workshop on Marine Protected Areas

View the Day 1 blog here.

View the Day 3 blog here.

6:11 pm: Medmaravis is an important network of experts, with skills in monitoring seabirds and engaging with local communities. Today, they have explained their pollution report. Seabirds are not only impacted by contaminants such as plastics, but seabirds can be used as indicators for monitoring contaminations. More information on their work from their recent issue.

Joe Sultana, one of the founders of BirdLife Malta and very engaged with Medmaravis wants to keep the work for this society to share the knowledge of experts.

5:47 pm: National identification of priorities from across the Mediterranean (Libya, France, Croatia, Italy) leads us to a clear message: eradication of invasive species (rat and cats) is important to save seabirds, but can be controversial.

Costs of eradication can be considered “cheap” if you consider that you get results in one swoop. But can we get around the controversies to save seabirds?

Check this database on eradication of invasive species for more information.

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4:00 pm: Can you tell the difference between Cory’s Shearwater and Scopoli’s Shearwater? Not so easy – but the inner web of their primary feathers are different, their size is different, and they also vocalise differently. Their biggest different is their DNA.

Scopoli’s Shearwater has recently been split taxonomically from Cory’s Shearwater. So how did Maria determine when updating the data which species it was? It is easier to differentiate breeding colonies in the Atlantic (Cory’s) and eastern Mediterrenean (Scopoli’s). The problem lies with countries like Spain where both species breed in similar colonies. These requires field identification, and Maria is ready to come look at any site you might want to flag to her!

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3: 50 pm: Maria from BirdLife International showcases the data that has been collected for Yelkouan Shearwater – identified as a priority species in the Mediterranean. Only way for us to know the big picture is through the hard work of the BirdLife partnership. Keep sending us your data!

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2:05 pm: Learning about light pollution and their threats to seabirds. It is a major problem for several species (including for humans!) Seabirds are extremely sensitive to light pollution. In Malta, the overpopulation of the island causes colony disturbance for seabirds and they abandon nesting sites. One colony disappeared in the ’70s because street lights were put next to it!

BirdLife Malta will illustrate solutions are possible by putting in place practical and easy measures for the Ferry terminal from Malta island to Gozo. High expectations for success.

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1:27 pm: Half of Malta’s seas have been found to be internationally important for seabirds, and identified as Important Bird Areas. In this video we explain what an IBA is, and why these areas at sea need to be protected for seabirds.

1:11pm: Albert from the Seabird Bycatch Taskforce ( explains how birds gets caught by boats using long lines and fishing for demersal fish.

The observers programme that Albert belongs to puts scientist on the boats with fishers to check the behaviour of seabirds and the interactions between the seabirds and the fishing boats (such as when fishers set the baits and when fishers throw fish out). Knowing that Balearic Shearwater has a large diving activity around sunrise for food is important for setting mitigation measures for the fisheries.

12:32 pm: The Lesser Crested Tern is the national symbol of Libya, and 99% of the species’ Mediterranean population is breeding in 3-4 sites. There is a group of ornithologists from across the mediterranean that are closely working to monitor seabirds in this area. Most efforts and funding have ceased since 2013, but Libyan NGOs call for greater efforts from across the med to train and build the skills to improve the status of seabirds.

Libya is recently in the news for other, sadder humanitarian crises reasons. We hope that with these updates, we can bring a different perspective by showing the natural beauty and the efforts to conserve seabirds.

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12:24 pm: Non-EU BirdLife partners are also committed to working in the Mediterranean to save seabirds. They are presenting the current status for Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Libya and Syria. The message is clear: There is a massive knowledge gap.

In Lebanon, there are very few birdwatchers – they have gone from shooting and hunting (often illegal) to birdwatching. Still a long way to go.

12:00 pm: Just been told by HOS (BirdLife in Greece) that the Greek government are presenting very dubious Marine Protected Areas that do not follow scientific advice. They are also declaring that for economic reasons (potential for hydrocarbon), they are not declaring certain MPAs under EU legislation.

Maybe the Greek government should get ready to be taken to the European Court of Justice – that is an infringement on the Birds Directive!

11:35 am: Ursa from DOPPS (BirdLife in Slovenia) explains that although they have a very small sea coastline, they are working together with the Slovenian government to identify and designate Marine Protected Areas for birds.

Breaking news! The agency for nature in Slovenia has last week put forward its proposal for which areas they believe should be protected on the basis of the work that DOPPS has done. It should hopefully not be long when the Slovenian government officially designates these areas!

11:20 am: Marguerite Tarzia is using a story map (a pretty cool tool you can check here) to explain the current Marine Protected Areas compared to BirdLife’s identification of important bird areas.

The message: still a huge knowledge gap in the marine region that needs to be overcome, and no excuse for EU countries: you’ve had since 1979! Lets implement Nature Directives in the Mediterrenean too.

10:40 am: A perfect example of cooperating so that everyone wins:

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10:30 am: Day 2 of workshop in Malta. Carolina Hanzin from the BirdLife secretariat explains why countries need to cooperate to improve ocean health.

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Welcome to Day 2 of the workshop live blog! To see what you missed on Day 1, click here.

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