Malta is an important island for many wildlife species, including the Yelkouan Shearwater, a Mediterranean endemic seabird species that is listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.
The Maltese Islands are home to approximately 10% of the global population of this species, therefore the protection of the Maltese Yelkouan Shearwater population is important on the global scale, especially with drastic declines of Yelkouan Shearwaters recorded over recent decades.
BirdLife Malta’s EU-funded LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project aims at securing the Maltese Islands for the Yelkouan Shearwater by collecting data on its distribution, abundance and threats and by reducing the main threats significantly. These seabirds face several threats, including invasive predator species such as rats that predate on the eggs and chicks. This is a major threat as it causes a reduction in the reproductive success and population size of the Yelkouan Shearwaters. Rats are attracted and sustain high population near the colonies due to the availability of food from littering left by visitors, especially organic waste.
Besides organic waste, non-biodegradable waste such as plastics, littered on land can be washed off into the sea. While large debris (macro-plastics) can cause entanglement and external injury to marine life including Yelkouan Shearwaters, micro-plastics can be ingested by the birds. Recently there has been increasing focus on micro-plastics (smaller than 5mm), which can end up in the food web, building up inside prey items (bioaccumulation) or mistaken as prey by shearwaters, increasing mortalities.
BirdLife Malta’s LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project is carrying out a campaign to raise awareness about littering near the colonies with the aim of encouraging the public to keep Natura 2000 sites litter-free! The campaign involves an engagement event and uses digital tools to raise awareness.
Event. 16th November 2019.
The event will take place at L-Irdum tal-Madonna, the largest Yelkouan Shearwater colony in the Maltese Islands, hosting around 500 breeding pairs. Along this coastal region is also one of the few camping areas in Malta (l-Aħrax), where there is a large accumulation of waste and overflowing bins.
The event will be divided into two parts:
– An information session on Natura 2000 sites, the litter problem and seabird conservation followed by a cleanup at the camping area.
– Discussion about actions which everyone can take to address the waste pollution problem.