2018 has been record year for stranded seabirds in Gozo and Malta
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BirdLife Malta has said that 2018 has been a record year for stranded seabirds, with 24 stranded Scopoli’s Shearwaters (Cief) recovered and successfully released back to sea thanks to the public response.
This is five more than in 2017 and on the other hand it shows the worrying effects of increasing levels of light pollution across the Maltese Islands, it added.
BLM said that this year, most stranded shearwaters were found at Victoria and Xlendi in Gozo, Hal Far and the Freeport in Malta – all areas with high levels of light pollution.These stranded birds are fledglings, young birds that have left the nest on their maiden flight and become disoriented by bright lights from coastal developments and towns, resulting in them becoming stranded on land.
This trend was also seen in the record numbers of stranded Yelkouan Shearwaters earlier in the year. Grounded shearwaters are extremely vulnerable to predation, collision with vehicles, and dehydration, making light-induced strandings a leading cause of mortality for young shearwaters worldwide.
The NGO stated that a change in our nocturnal environment has seen shearwater strandings increase dramatically in recent years.
It explained that the current period of rapid urbanisation and development that Malta is undergoing is likely the major contributing factor to this deteriorating situation.
“Thanks to an increase in public awareness generated through LIFE Arcipelagu Garnija about stranded shearwaters, more birds have been rescued and safely released,” said BirdLife.It pointed out that light pollution occurs as a result of poorly installed lights, excessive illumination of structures and inefficient directing of light. According to BirdLife, “Malta, once famed for its pristine night skies, is now the 17th worst light-polluted country on Earth relative to population size.”
According to the recently revised Atlas of Artificial Night-Sky Brightness, the Milky Way is visible from only 11% of the country, said BLM/
Levels of light pollution are expected to increase as new developments opt for more energy efficient white-light LEDs which cause up to twice as much light pollution as the yellow-light of traditional outdoor lighting.
It said that scientific studies have identified light pollution as a fast-growing threat to global ecosystems as artificial light at night disrupts the normal behaviours of plants and animals.
BirdLife Malta’s LIFE Arcipelagu Garnija project is continuing to work towards mitigating the impacts of light pollution.
On the 22nd November, the project will be co-hosting a light pollution workshop with ADZ Green Youth Malta and the Light Pollution Awareness Group at Salina Nature Reserve to inform local councils, business owners and various associations on the dangers of light pollution with a focus on Malta’s seabirds.
BirdLife Malta said that it is encouraged by the goodwill of Transport Malta that have joined efforts as partners in this project.
Anyone interested in attending the “Shining a light on Pollution” workshop, please contact Project Warden Martin Austad on firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a place.
BirdLife Malta gave thanks to the officers of the Administrative Law Enforcement (ALE) unit of the Malta Police Force and all members of the public involved in recovering stranded shearwaters. It said that all recovered birds were successfully released back to sea again.
Photos BirdLife Malta: A young Scopoli’s Shearwater fledgling about to fly back to sea after it was rescued by members of the public who found it disoriented by bright lights in an urban area; Xlendi, Gozo is the main hotspot for Scopoli’s Shearwater strandings due to the high levels of light pollution from the excessively lit promenade and coastal road. (Photo by Nathaniel Attard) and Coastal light pollution at Cirkewwa arising from excessively bright LEDs and inefficient directing of light is the main cause of young shearwaters becoming stranded on land.