Wind-chasers in the Central Mediterranean: Public lecture on seabird research

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Wind-chasers in the Central Mediterranean: Public lecture on seabird researchA public lecture is taking place next Tuesday, entitled Wind-chasers in the Central Mediterranean: seabird research and conservation in the Maltese Islands.

The lecture is being organised by the Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, University of Malta, and is taking place in the New Biology Resource Room, Department of Biology, University of Malta. The guest lecturer is Dr Benjamin Metzger Head of Research, Malta Seabird Project.

Three tubenose species are known to breed around the Maltese Archipelago in significant numbers: the Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan (Garnija), the Scopoli’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea (Ciefa), and the Mediterranean Storm-petrel Hydrobates pelagicus melitensis (Kangu ta’ Filfla).

Due to multiple threats at land and at sea, seabirds show an overall unfavourable conservation status, with the Yelkuoan Shearwater having recently been uplisted to ‘vulnerable’ in the IUCN Redlist. Seabird conservation in the past largely focused on terrestrial breeding grounds, and most Maltese seabird colonies at land are legally protected as Special Protection Areas within the European Natura 2000 network.

However, less is known about the birds’ movements and whereabouts at sea. Therefore, the identification of important offshore bird areas and their designation as marine protected areas are seen as crucial steps to safeguard Maltese seabirds and to reverse their decline.

To reach these aims, the research team led by Dr Metzger carried out an intensive program of boat- and land-based surveys, and applied various tagging and tracking techniques to all three seabird species nesting in Malta.

The results indicate that Maltese seabirds regularly make use of foraging grounds located offshore at a great distance from their nest sites. Outside the breeding season, the birds carry out even larger movements to offshore areas of high productivity.

With a large part of the sea area used by Maltese seabirds being located outside territorial waters, the research findings highlight the importance of a multinational approach in the designation of marine protected areas and further networking between countries to achieve effective species conservation measures.

The work that will be presented by Dr Metzger is being carried out by BirdLife Malta in collaboration with the Maltese Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change (MSDEC), BirdLife Portugal (SPEA) and BirdLife UK (RSPB). The work is co-funded by EU-Life+.

This public lecture is one of a series of events which the Department of Biology is holding as part of the Faculty of Science Centenary Celebrations.

The lecture date is Tuesday, the 5th of May, between 6.00pm and 7.00pm. Attendance is free of charge, members of the public are invited to attend.

Those wishing to attend are kindly asked to contact Ms Michaela Stivala, at the Department of Biology, University of Malta Tel: 23402272; Email: Michaela.stivala@um.edu.mt.

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