Malta has designated 14 MPAs recently, with 9 MPAs declared in 2016. This comprises roughly some 3,450 square km, an area larger than the country itself. Malta is currently protecting ~ 30 % (29.88 %) of all the waters under its jurisdiction and hence has achieved more than the set national target for SDG 14.5, since more than the set 10% target has been achieved, as well as meeting the marine part of the CBD Aichi target 11.
Initially Malta designated 5 MPAs as part of the marine Natura 2000 network mostly for the seagrass meadow, a priority habitat type for European waters. In 2012, it had already been noted by the EU, that relative to its size, Malta was one of the countries with the largest contribution [to the marine aspect of the Natura 2000 network], with 183 km2 of marine areas designated. Seagrass meadows are very efficient in carbon sequestration, and thus they contribute immensely to the Blue Carbon.
With the designation of the other 9 MPAs established in 2016 (2 of which are common for both sea-birds and marine turtles and cetaceans), Malta has further contributed to cover important areas for marine turtles, cetaceans and a number of protected seabirds. Follow up mechanisms such as monitoring and reporting are provided for in the EU Habitats and EU Marine Strategy Framework Directives. As parts of a European regional MPA-network, these sites will help restore and strengthen ecosystem resilience which will help protect ecosystem services and may mitigate adverse effects from global warming and other stressors on the marine environment.
The final steps towards the designation of these MPAs as Natura 2000 sites, also entailed an ambitious awareness raising and capacity building component through a number of EU LIFE projects including LIFE MIGRATE, which comprised:
- Training on species identification to a number of professional fishermen, NGOs, the airwing and Maritime Squadron of the Armed Forces of Malta, divers and other sea-users;
- Awareness activities addressed to the general public, such as the organization of education talks on the species to be protected as well as integration with beach clean-up activities and the preparation and distribution of promotional materials (videos, leaflets, posters and TV spots) during various promotional national events;
- Production of number of videos and short clips for TV on the status of marine turtles and cetaceans and the on-going work that was being done through this projects;
- Promotion and encouragement of educational programs from the local government and NGOs, such as courses and lessons on cetaceans and other marine species for interested individuals as well as awareness raising events during the day for school children at times in conjunction with rehabilitated turtles release events;
- Broad public information campaigns in an accessible way on the results of the EU LIFE MIGRATE project in order to enhance awareness and public participation and stimulate a behavioural change
By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans
Type of commitment
- Ecosystem-based Adaptation
By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information
Type of commitment
- Multiple use marine protected area
For the LIFE MIGRATE project which identified 3 of the latter mentioned 9 sites (2 in common with the Malta Seabirds Project) an After Life Conservation Plan was already drafted in April 2016 wherein a number of management measures were also identified. Furthermore guidelines like the ones for the conservation of cetaceans and marine turtles in Maltese water were also drafted through this project
14 Marine Protected Areas, of which 9 are new, were established in 2016. This commitment will have multiple commitments, without end dates, as the MPAs would need monitoring, data collection, reporting and other continuous management measures