Malta Diary Keeping the marine biodiversity lifeline active – Malta in the forefront
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The threat of marine pollution together with environmental problems as a result of rapid climate changes, send ripples of fear shuddering down thinking Maltese minds. It would virtually mean Malta’s suffocation in being as well as permanently damaging Malta’s tourism based on blue skies and blue seas.
Malta’s position slap-bang in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea makes it equi-distant from the Straits of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal leading to the Red Sea, the inflows and outflows of the Middle Sea.
As things stand today, Malta has been placed as having the second cleanest seas and bays among EU Member States. However, threats loom constantly. Plastic is one of them – whether purposely dumped by stupid, moronic, negligent and uncaring minds or whether as a result of rainwater outflows into the sea.
Even though Malta has been a pioneer and has been active in keeping the seas clean and being environmentally conscious for over 50 years, the threats are great. Current forecasts are that it’s a matter of time until there will be more plastic than fish worldwide. It’s already a current reality that by eating fish nowadays is tantamount to eating traces of plastic as small fish eating plastic are eaten by larger fish eating plastic and passing on the chain.
In the late 1960s, through its UN Ambassador Arvid Pardo (with Maltese roots despite his Scandinavian name), the late Pardo pioneered the Laws of the Sea at the United Nations, Laws updated and still recognised today.
Some months ago Malta’s Prime Minister was in Tokyo to reaffirm its great commitment in keeping the world’s oceans clean.
Now, Malta’s highly-active Environment and Resources Authority, (ERA), is drawing up a conservation plan to protect the caves and reefs around Malta and Gozo’s coast. Following the undertaking of extensive coastal research, it has been established there are about one hundred caves which are a natural habitat to endemic species that are only found in the waters around the Maltese Islands.
Some sea caves around the coast have been estimated to have formed more than seven million years ago. It is a major tourist platform for aqualung and snorkel divers who annually visit Malta in their thousands to enjoy the clarity of the water, the marine biodiversity of the waters and spend hours visiting sea-bottom wrecks.
Marta Curmi, an ERA official, said the basis of the plan is to ensure these habitats be conserved in the best way possible. The Authority has worked closely with interested parties such as divers and diving centres for there to be effective control and monitoring of these caves and to create better practices for a more sustainable approach.
Another Authority official, Christina Mallia said a number of research projects have been carried out, including LIFE Sea coordinated by ERA and the University. She said it is clear that these caves are the natural habitat for biodiversity as explained as a result of observations of several fish, crabs, shrimps, around their entrance and even sponges and other coral. She said this shows how important these caves are for marine biodiversity because they provide an environment for shelter, where many animals and flora and marine fauna live.
The research showed that there are 37 visible caves around the coast, while 52 are completely submerged underwater. The majority are located in the west and north of Gozo, while others are located in the southwest of Malta. In addition, 17 deep-water caves were also located.
The caves vary in size and structure and the species that inhabit them vary according to their exposure to sunlight, the waves and sea currents. The largest underwater cave is located 438 metres below the sea’s surface and the deepest cave is 795 metres below the surface.
The ERA officials said that during the research process, new areas of reefs were found in deep water, with an extensive range of cold-water corals.
According to Christina Mallia, “the corals are living organisms and form by secreting a skeleton of minerals such as calcium carbonate. To have got to this stage they must have evolved over hundreds of years and deserve to be properly protected.”
This coral was found at a depth of between 300 and 1,000 metres.
A reef formed by fossilised sponge was found in the north of Gozo, spread over a wide area of seven kilometres at a depth of about 300 metres.
Taken holistically, these actions will not only keep Malta’s lifeline free and open but will also aid the struggle to maintain the world’s marine biodiversity – currently under severe threat.
Pictures – courtesy of Television Malta and The Weather Page, Malta.
“He quenched his thirst with a ham”
A person with a problem tries a solution which rather than improves the situation deteriorates it even further. Therefore, being thirsty, to quench his thirst, he munches on a salty ham!