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Life+ Malta Seabird Project

The EU LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project is the largest seabird conservation project carried out in Malta. Through extensive and innovative research, the project has identified areas at sea essential for Malta’s seabirds and created an inventory of marine Important Bird Areas (IBAs) – areas at sea that are most frequently and intensively used by seabirds in great numbers.
Large numbers of globally protected seabirds nest in Malta. With seabird populations declining across the world, local conservation efforts are important for safeguarding global biodiversity. In order to protect birds that spend most of their life at sea, protection of key marine areas is just as important as that of breeding sites on land.
The Maltese Islands are home to 10% of the Yelkouan Shearwater world’s population, 3% of Scopoli’s Shearwaters and 50% of the Mediterranean subspecies of the European Storm-petrel. The Maltese breeding populations of these species are believed to have an unfavourable conservation status and the project is the first to target all three of them.
Seabirds face multiple threats at sea, but their ability to fly hundreds of kilometres daily and their secretive behaviour have resulted in difficulties to study them. Before the start of this project, the routes of Maltese seabirds, their destinations and behaviour at sea were largely unknown, meaning their protection at sea could not be guaranteed. The project has enabled thorough research into the life of Malta’s seabirds while out at sea and emphasised the need to protect marine areas regularly used by the birds for feeding, resting or during migration.
To study seabirds’ movements at sea, the Project applied a combination of traditional methods, such as boat-based observations and monitoring breeding colonies and innovative methods, including radio tracking, GPS loggers to track daily movements and geolocators to follow migration routes. The various techniques yielded remarkable information about previously unknown areas frequented by seabirds throughout their daily and yearly cycles.
To identify marine IBAs locally, the project used measures that are standardised by BirdLife International, the world’s largest nature conservation Partnership, thus ensuring international recognition of these important sites. Now these sites are being proposed to the Maltese government for declaration as Marine Special Protection Areas. Once designated as Special Protection Areas within the Natura 2000 network, Malta will be fulfilling its obligation of implementing the EU Birds Directive. The Maltese authorities will then create and implement management plans for all the marine protected sites and monitor them to make sure that seabirds and other marine life are safe and that these areas have Good Environmental Status (GES) by 2020, meaning they are biodiverse, clean and used sustainably.
The EU LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project is led by BirdLife Malta in collaboration with the Ministry for Sustainable Development, Environment and Climate Change (MSDEC), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and the Sociedade Portuguesa para o estudo das Aves (SPEA).
For more information, visit:
The LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project website:
Malta Seabird Project Facebook page:
BirdLife Malta website: