BirdLife Malta’s seabird project enters new conservation stage

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BirdLife Malta's seabird project enters new conservation stageBirdLife Malta’s seabird project, now in its third year, has entered and important phase for the conservation of the Yelkouan Shearwater.

BirdLife Malta, in a statement said that its LIFE Arcipelagu Garnija project is starting conservation actions to tackle the threats Yelkouan Shearwater (Garnija) populations face in the Maltese Islands.

The first phase was concluded at the end of 2017 which saw Yelkouan Shearwater populations and their threats around Gozo and Malta monitored and assessed.

BirdLife said that from this the main threats identified in the breeding colonies were predation by rats, light pollution from developed areas, littering left by visitors and disturbance by boats.

The project team – based on the data from the first years – is now implementing conservation actions to reduce these risks, including localised rat control programmes in colony sites to secure half of the Maltese population of Yelkouan Shearwaters and increase reproductive success.

BirdLife said that the project is working with local stakeholders and the general public to reduce littering close to colonies, mainly in Rdum tal-Madonna and Comino. It said that “litter left by campers at L-Ahrax tal-Mellieha and by visitors to the Blue Lagoon, maintains large rat populations that then feed on shearwater eggs and chicks.”

In view of this the project said that it is calling on site visitors to “collect their rubbish and dispose of it in bins or even better bring it back home or to the harbour from where they departed to Comino.”

BirdLife Malta added that it is also working with Transport Malta to reduce the disturbance of recreational boats that pass close to breeding seabird colonies in the cliffs and enter sea caves with loud music and lights by increasing awareness among the boat users.

The project has also assessed and will now start addressing the threat of light pollution from land, mainly from developed areas such as St Paul’s Bay, and from the sea originating from bunkering boats, especially those refuelling in front of seabird colonies.

BirdLife Malta said that one of its main actions is to increase awareness among site users and the Maltese public in general about this wonderful and unique seabird species.

You can now even follow the breeding cycle of a Yelkouan pair and their chick along the season by following the #NestWatch video updates here.

Photograph by BirdLife Malta

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