Earlier this month, MEPA, carried out an intensive training course for officials with the Maritime Squadron of the Armed Forces of Malta in marine species identification, with particular attention given to dolphins, whales and turtles.
This training, which is part of a three year project titled “MIGRATE” co-financed by the EU LIFE programme, the Government of Malta, Kai Marine Services and the Bank of Valletta, seeks to establish a better understanding of the population status of these marine species, in particular the bottlenose dolphin and the loggerhead turtle and measures essential for their effective conservation.
The project consists in gathering scientific data on the populations of these species around Malta and to identify any potential zones/hotspots which prove crucial for these species through the use of geographic information systems. Crucial habitats may be good feeding grounds or important migration routes, which if found present throughout this project, will be protected as necessary.
With boat-based observations (although land observations from high areas like Dingli cliffs, may also prove essential) playing a significant role in the study, MEPA is carrying out training courses for various stakeholders who are highly probable to encounter turtles and dolphins out at sea. Maritime personnel from the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) often encounter turtles or sea mammals and at times even in distress while performing their military duties. This training is thus also part of AFM’s continued commitment towards marine conservation.
Lieutenant, Mark Scicluna from the Armed Forces said “we feel a sense of duty and a responsibility to be able to contribute towards this project. Identifying the correct species whilst out at sea requires one to have a high and knowledgeable skill in the species you are looking out for. This training course will not only help our personnel in contributing more positively towards this project but also enable us to respond better when we encounter and recover injured marine species out at sea.” He added that “Earlier this year, AFM officials from the maritime squadron managed to recover two wounded sea-turtles and handed them over to Nature Trust/MEPA to be taken at the rehabilitation centre for further care and veterinary treatment as necessary.”
As part of this project MEPA will also be training leisure-craft owners and other sea –users, who on a voluntary basis wish to participate in this project and record sightings of these species effectively. As outlined above, an assessment of trends will be carried out, and any important crucial areas identified through the studies shall be proposed for legal protection.
Anyone interested in following this project, participating as a volunteer and/or interested in receiving updates through the newsletter of this project may contact the project team via email [email protected].
For more information visit www.lifeprojectmigrate.com