MEPA categorically denies BirdLife statement

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Malta Environment & Planning Authority
MEPA has issued a statement saying that it has designated 1,434 hectares as Special Protection Area, whereas a Birdlife (Malta) statement had only identified a total area of 480 hectares. The full text of MEPA’s response to BirdLife’s statement is quoted Below:

“The Malta Environment & Planning Authority (MEPA) categorically denies the statement issued by Birdlife that Malta is falling short of EU requirements for nature conservation sites. On the contrary, Malta as clearly indicated by the European Topic Centre for the EU Commission, has been actively working on nature conservation areas, and is in fact the most advanced of the EU members states that acceding the EU in 2004, as shown from the graph below.

Graph showing the sufficiency of EU 25 Member States

Figure 1 (Above): Graph showing the sufficiency of EU 25 Member States in relation to the Habitats Directive & Natura 2000. MS acceding in 2004 are shown in green.
Legend: DK Denmark; NL Netherlands; BE Belgium; FI Finland; IT Italy; DE Germany; GR Greece; SE Sweden; LU Luxembourg; ES Spain; UK United Kingdom; MT Malta; FR France; LV Latvia; AT Austria; PT Portugal; IE Ireland; HU Hungary; EE Estonia; SI Slovenia; SK Slovakia; LT Lithuania; CZ Czech Republic; CY Cyprus; PL Poland.
(Source: http://biodiversity.eionet.europa.eu/activities/Natura_2000/sufficiency_June2007.pdf).

This is further strengthened by the fact that Malta has designated as much as 15% of its territory as protected in terms of nature protection considerations, particularly in relation to the EU’s Natura 2000 Network, a network of areas housing important habitats and species set by the EC Birds and Habitats Directives. This is considerably high, also noting the small size of the Maltese Islands, and its high population density.

With respect to the ‘Important Bird Areas’ (IBAs) identified by BirdLife (Malta), it should be noted that Malta has designated 12 Special Protection Areas, as published by Government Notice 112 of 2007 through the provisions of the Flora, Fauna and Natural Habitats Protection Regulations, 2006 (Legal Notice 311 of 2006). These cover a total area of 1,434.2 hectares. This is in comparison to the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) as identified by BirdLife (Malta) in their 2004 report that only covered a total area of approximately 480 hectares.

With respect to the claim made by BirdLife (Malta) in connection with the cliffs of Ta’ Cenc in Gozo, it should be noted that this site has already been declared as a Natura 2000 site in 2006, and nationally protected as a SPA in 2007. Similarly, the rare endemic plant species and breeding birds found in the area are all legally protected in terms of the Flora, Fauna and Natural Habitats Protection Regulations, 2006 and the Conservation of Wild Birds Regulations, 2006.

In connection with the statement made on the “six IBAs which are only partially covered by SPA status”, these six sites cover the coastal cliffs on the western side of Malta and Gozo. These sites have been nominated in view of the seabirds falling under the Birds Directive, that breed and nest in relatively inaccessible cliffs, on boulders and within cracks in the said cliffs. Although in Malta and Gozo the cliff plateau is not directly used in the life cycle of the sea-birds in question, the boundaries of these Special Protection Areas do include a ‘buffer’ which incorporates a varying degree of the respective plateau, based on expert advice and the topographic nature of the area in question. Moreover, the boundaries of the IBAs are mostly the same as for the sites proposed by Malta for inclusion into the Natura 2000 Network as Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) under the Habitats Directive.

Notwithstanding this, Malta is still collecting scientific data on these and other sites, so as to update the current information and propose additional sites, including marine ones, in line with timeframes established with the European Commission.”

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