Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, visited the research catamaran Oceana Ranger last Friday to learn about the scientific expeditions carried out by the international marine conservation organisation. A Maltese native, Mr Vella had the chance to get acquainted with the underwater research currently being conducted in Malta by Oceana, including filming deep-sea marine habitats and species.
“We are very grateful to Commissioner Vella for his interest in Oceana’s efforts to improve the protection and management of European seas. The findings of our marine research will support the Maltese authorities and help them create new marine protected areas. Marine protected areas are important for the safeguard of valuable underwater sites, and also contribute to fish recovery,” stated Lasse Gustavsson, executive director for Oceana in Europe.
Commissioner Vella’s trip to Malta coincided with a two-month expedition that Oceana is currently carrying out to survey deep-sea areas and underwater caves in the archipelago. This expedition is part of the LIFE BaĦAR for N2K project, which aims to extend existing marine Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) and to identify new SCIs in Maltese waters for inclusion within the Natura 2000 network. Currently, this network of protected areas only covers 4% of EU seas, the Maltese government have committed to protect 10% of their coastal and marine areas before 2020
As part of his visit, Commissioner Vella had the chance to visit the Oceana Ranger, which was moored in Valletta. The 21 metre-long catamaran is a functional vessel equipped with an ROV (Remotedly Operated Vehicle) able to film in high resolution, and it serves as a working platform for marine researchers and divers. During this expedition, scientists from the Department of Biology of the University of Malta have joined Oceana staff and have managed to research previously unknown areas of the sea bottom.
Oceana is a pioneering non-profit organisation in the use of ROVs to study deep-sea areas, which are commonly neglected in marine conservation initiatives. With the help of this first-hand research, Oceana prepares proposals envisaging a sustainable use of fishing resources and the preservation of marine biodiversity.
The LIFE BaĦAR for N2K (LIFE12 NAT/MT/000845) Project is 50% co-financed by the EU LIFE+ Funding Programme. It is coordinated by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority in association with the Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the University of Malta and Oceana.
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