Loggerhead turtle. Photo: Oceana, Carlos Minguell
The Ministry for the Environment Climate Change and Planning (MECP) and the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) are committed to maintaining and preserving the Maltese natural heritage, both on land and at sea. This is why they are actively working to safeguard the biodiversity and health of various marine Natura 2000 sites, both within coastal and offshore areas, where sites have been designated as Marine Protected Areas.
Whether we live in the coast or far inland we all love the ocean, but along with our climate, it is rapidly changing. Climate change is profoundly impacting ocean ecosystems, where we are seeing phenomena such as increased ocean temperatures, sea level rise, altered weather patterns, changes in ocean currents, and effects of ocean acidification.
All marine wildlife and ecosystems are hurting and the livelihood of millions of people around the globe is being effected. Many don’t know how important the ocean is in the solution against climate change.
Neptune sea grass. Photo: Oceana, Carlos Minguell
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are fundamental to safeguard for the ocean habitats, including storm protection, erosion control, food production and jobs that support the tourism industry. In this regard Malta has reached an important milestone through the designation of 4,138km2 as Marine Protected Areas. This covers over 35 per cent of Malta’s Fisheries Management Zone (FMZ) and comprises Sites of Community Importance (SCIs), designated for the protection of marine habitats and species pursuant to the EU Habitats Directive, and Special Protected Areas (SPAs) designated for the protection of seabirds under the EU Birds Directive. This network of protected areas was established over a period of 10 years, for the conservation of important marine habitats and species.
MPAs are managed with the aim of improving and maximising the contribution of the sites, to the maintenance and achievement of Favourable Conservation Status of the habitats and species listed in these directives.
MPAs can provide long-term protection for “blue carbon” – coastal habitats including seagrasses and mangroves that provide long term storage for atmospheric carbon. In fact, Malta’s MPAs seek the conservation of the Neptune seagrass (Posidonia oceanica) – which is an important habitat for coastal biodiversity, caves and reef habitats.
Species protected through MPAs include the Maltese topshell (Steromphala nivosa), the loggerhead turtle (Carretta carretta), the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and three seabirds that breed in the Maltese Islands: the Scopoli’s Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea), the Yelkouan Shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan) and the European Storm Petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus).
Through the proper management of MPAs, therefore, we would be simultaneously conserving biodiversity and helping reach climate change mitigation and adaptation targets. It’s imperative to reduce green house gases, pollution and marine litter which all pose serious threats to our beautiful marine ecosystems.
While it is essential to designate MPAs, their effectiveness is strictly connected to the level of involvement of the local community in supporting marine protection policy and measures, as well as in committing to more sustainable solutions.
We call upon you to recognise the importance of Marine Protected Areas. We need to help expand the role that the ocean plays for a better and healthier global environment.
For more information on the environmental damage caused by marine litter and plastics in particular, and on what you can do to prevent this, follow the Saving Our Blue campaign on Facebook and Instagram. For more information on MPAs you can also visit https://era.org.mt/topic/marine-protected-areas-2/
Be part of the solution not the pollution... Saving our Blue!
Saving Our Blue is a national campaign run by the Ministry for the Environment Climate Change and Planning with the aim of raising awareness about the impacts of marine litter and, disseminating information and education about the ongoing transition from the use of single-use plastics to more sustainable products and environmentally conscious behaviours.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.