Implementation of the Convention
Measures Taken to Achieve the 2010 Target
The development of the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for the Maltese Islands shall serve as the primary tool for integrating biodiversity concerns into other sectors. Nonetheless biodiversity issues have already been considered in the context of sustainable development via the National Strategy for Sustainable Development, rural development by way of the Rural Development Plan and its agri-environment measures and through cross-compliance procedures with respect to statutory environmental management standards established in relation to the EU Directives listed in Annex III to Council Regulation (EC) No. 1782/2003. Other measures undertaken at a national level and that contribute to the achievement of objectives as identified to address the 2010 target include:
1) Conservation of species and the protection of their natural habitats – a number of native and endemic species of terrestrial and marine flora and fauna threatened by exploitation are afforded strict legal protection at a national level by way of subsidiary legislation issued under the Environment Protection Act, making it illegal to exploit them. In addition, ex situ conservation is also being carried out for a number of threatened species as part of reinforcement programmes. Moreover, legislation on nature protection, particularly the Flora, Fauna and Natural Habitats Protection Regulations Notice 311 of 2006, has also declared habitat types important for the survival of such species as protected areas, and which are to be protected accordingly (Refer to section on Protected Areas).
2) Conservation of genetic diversity and agrobiodiversity – The conservation and enhancement of autochthonous species, such as the Maltese Ox, a critically endangered indigenous breed due to the small number of remaining specimens, features as an agri-environment measure under the Rural Development Plan for Malta (2004-2006), as well as support to organic farming. The restoration of rubble walls, which serve to reduce soil erosion in agricultural fields by wind and water, and which act as an important habitat for a variety of flora and fauna, also qualifies as an agri-environment measure in relation to Malta’s Rural Development Policy (2004-2006). Good farming practice is also promoted and encouraged, whereby the observation of a number of standards, such as soil conservation, efficient use of water, conservation of biodiversity, rational use of pesticides and fertilisers, is called for.
3) Sustainable use of components – Provisions calling for the control of species exploitation and the sustainable use of components of biodiversity are incorporated into national law. For instance, Regulation 27 of the Flora, Fauna and Natural Habitat Protection Regulations Notice 311 of 2006 allows for the exploitation of a number of listed species subject that such exploitation is carried out in a way that does not undermine their conservation status. By virtue of Article 38 of the Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (Act II of 2001), the Minister responsible for fisheries may make regulations, on, amongst others, the conservation, management and protection of fish resources.
4) Trade control of protected species – This is done nationally through the implementation of the Trade in Fauna and Flora Regulations Notice 236 of 2004. These Regulations implement and enforce Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein, which in turn implements the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
5) Controlling pressures from habitat loss, land use change and degradation – The Development Planning Act has as one of its aims the harmonisation of ‘development’ with the environment. The Structure Plan for the Maltese Islands, which forms part the DPA, provides a set of policies which amongst others cater for Rural Conservation Areas. These include within them Areas of Ecological Importance (AEIs) and Sites of Scientific Importance (SSIs), which areas/sites are scheduled under the DPA. Such scheduling affords the listed areas blanket protection from certain activities but does not provide for management of the areas. Functionally, therefore, these areas do not fall under any management regime. However, the Planning Authority can issue Conservation Orders that specify management requirements for any scheduled site. Local legislation that transposes EU law also provides for the taking up of an Environment Impact Assessment for specific types of development, as explained and listed in Environment Impact Assessment Regulations of 2001 Notice 204 of 2001.
6) Controlling the threats of alien species – National legislation for addressing alien species exists through the provisions of the Flora, Fauna and Natural Habitats Protection Regulations (Legal Notice 311 of 2006). Measures have been initiated to increase the knowledge base of alien species already introduced into the Maltese Islands through commissioned studies for setting up lists of alien flora and fauna, with the aim of prioritising conservation/eradication efforts. Eradication programmes have been initiated in connection with different species, including eradication of rats from some of the smaller islets and of invasive plants from sensitive habitats as sand dunes. Awareness on issues related to alien species has been promoted through a number of seminars, which targeted groups of stakeholders.
7) Addressing the challenges to biodiversity from climate change and pollution – There is very limited scientific research on the impacts and implications of climate change on biodiversity in Malta. Most information is based on observation, inference and expert-advise, and it appears that wetlands and species not adapted to reduced rainfall and extensive drought are more at risk. Indeed, some ‘non-native’ drought-tolerant North African wetland species have made their appearance in Maltese widien (seasonally-wet valleys) in the last decade, and are increasing at the expense of native vegetation.
With respect to the UNFCCC, Malta ratified as a non-Annex I party on 17th March 1994, and on the same basis, subsequently ratified the Kyoto Protocol on the 11th November 2001. Although Malta does not have any individual reduction limitation commitment, Malta fully supports the European Commission in leading all Member States towards ambitious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, together with the EU’s leading role in the international action on climate change.
Malta is bound by the obligations set out in European Union legislation, including the Emissions Trading Directive. Malta’s overall greenhouse gas emissions are very small when compared to those of the European Union as a whole. In fact, Malta’s emissions of GHGs in 2002 were just 0.068% of the total EU-15 emissions and 0.058% of the total EU-25 emissions. This reflects the small size of the country in geographical, population and economic terms. In addition, Malta has one of the lowest emission rates per capita within the EU (7 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per capita, compared to an average of 11 tonnes for the EU- 25).
8) Capacity Building – Through twinning exercises with Austria and the UK, MEPA has strengthened the institutional capacity of the organisation for the implementation of the nature protection EU acquis. Moreover, through the commissioning of studies, the knowledge base on threatened species is being widened, for the purpose of shedding light into more effective protection and conservation. Information extracted from these studies is feeding into the National Database on Biodiversity. Several projects that one way or another contribute to addressing the 2010 target are further being or shall be carried out. One project that can be mentioned is the ERDF funded project to collect rigorous scientific data on benthic and pelagic environments of the island of Filfla, which is one of the uninhabited islands of the Maltese archipelago and, due to its inaccessibility, is known to harbour a vast array of important organisms.
Further information related to biodiversity and related issues in the Maltese Islands can be found on the MEPA website www.mepa.org.mt. Following is a list of some of the relevant sections:
-Env Protection (General) : -http://www.mepa.org.mt/environment/index.htm -Nature Protection: http://www.mepa.org.mt/environment/index.htm?nature_protection/mainpage.htm&1 -Climate Change: http://www.mepa.org.mt/environment/index.htm?climate_change/mainpage.htm&1 -Rural Environment: http://www.mepa.org.mt/environment/index.htm?land_use/Rural_Env/mainframe.htm&1 -GMOs & Biosafety: http://www.mepa.org.mt/environment/index.htm?GMOs/mainpage.htm&1 -Environment Impact Assessment: http://www.mepa.org.mt/EIA-Malta/index.htm?MainPage.aspx&1 -State of the Environment Report: http://www.mepa.org.mt/Environment/index.htm?SOER/mainframe.htm&1 -List of Primary Legislation on the Environment: http://www.mepa.org.mt/asps/webdocs/main.aspx?Organisation=Environment&DocumentType=Legislation&Menu=Environment -List of Secondary Legislation on the Environment: http://www.mepa.org.mt/asps/webdocs/main.aspx?Organisation=Environment&DocumentType=Legal Notices&Menu=Environment -International Nature Protection Treaties: http://www.mepa.org.mt/environment/nature_protection/NP_legislation/mainpage_International.htm
Initiatives in Protected Areas
Being an island archipelago, almost all of Malta’s protected areas can be said to be coastal. To date two marine sites have been declared. A number of protected areas include buffer zones. The protected area network created for Malta takes into account international/regional plans, strategies, targets and goals, as well as the IUCN system of categories. Illegal exploitation and trade of resources are regulated through legislation.
One of the main efforts in the Maltese Islands when considering the environment sector is the setting up and implementation of policies and plans in connection with the management of protected areas, particularly of Special Areas of Conservation. Management is called for in this case through local legislation that transposes the EU Habitats Directive. Management agreements have been approved for a number of sites, while management plans are in place, being developed, or undergoing review with respect to other sites. The management of other sites follows the obligations put forth through national legislation. To date, two marine areas are also covered by management measures.
The selection and management of protected areas is carried out in liaison with relevant stakeholders.
Initiatives for Article 8(j)
An ethnobotanic survey has been ongoing for the past 13 years and consists of semi-structured interviews, including discussions, and participant observation. Most interviewees are farmers and/or herders, and sometimes fishermen and traditional healers. Since traditional knowledge has declined considerably during the past 50 years, informants are usually sought from among the pre-World War II generation. Aspects of biocultural knowledge discussed include: medicinal plants; folk concepts of disease; local cultivars of crops; plants in myth, legend and superstitions; vernacular names and ethnotaxonomy; traditional agricultural practices; traditional methods of pest control; role of plants in animal husbandry, e.g. use of plants for veterinary purposes and fodder; old methods of pest control; fibrecrafts; etc. This research will culminate in the publication of a monograph on the ethnobotany of the Maltese Islands.