Disposal of waste and anchorages are among activities which cause most damage to the marine environment. The Environment and Resources Authority, ERA, is carrying out an exercise to identify conservation measures in protected maritime areas in Maltese waters, including new anchorage systems.
The sea-shell known as in-Nakkra tal-Harira, a Mediterranean sea-shell which can live for up to 20 years, and the Bronja tal-Fond, a big sea snail which lives on starfish, are among species at risk of extinction.
The ERA has noted that one of the causes leading to extinction of these species is anchorages by vessels and other seacraft which are destroying Posidonia Oceanica on the sea bed, this being the natural habitat of many of these species.
ERA Deputy Director Darrin Stevens explained that “when a boat drops anchor directly onto the seaweed or in areas where these big shells are found, and which can grow up to a metre in length, the shells tend to break easily, and as the video footage shows, even the seaweed is disturbed.”
Darren Stevens added that the Environment Authority is considering measures to mitigate this damage in protected maritime areas.
“We are looking into a system of natural ecological moorings, like those in use abroad, where instead of dropping anchor, one can tie up to particular buoys, thus reducing the impact on the marine environment.”
Mr Stevens added that from information gathered jointly by the Authority and Nature Trust, it results that one out of every five species found injured or dead are caused by waste disposed of by humans in the sea.
“It is very preoccupying that 20% of animals, particularly turtles, are found with injuries caused by plastic, which in certain cases leads to their death.”
Following various research projects, including the LIFE Bahar coordinated by the ERA, it transpires that the sea around Malta is a natural habitat for diversity. Over the past ten years Malta has declared an area of 4,100 square kilometres of sea as a potected maritime zone. This includes, among others, the sea around Comino, Filfla, Ta’ Cenc and Ghajn Tuffieha. In total, maritime zones cover over 35% of of the fishing zone falling under Malta’s responsibility, which extends to 25 nautical miles offshore.