The Environment and Resources Authority has conducted scientific surveys in marine waters on cetaceans (whales and dolphins) and confirmed the presence of selected cetaceans in particular areas around the Maltese coast, and further monitoring studies are ongoing.
The results were published as part of Malta’s Assessment of Marine Waters. This research has shown that four whale species and four dolphin species were reported from Malta in the latest surveys.
The whales are: the Fin Whale; the Sperm Whale; the Cuvier’s Beaked Whale and the Long-Finned Pilot Whale; whilst the dolphins are: the Risso’s Dolphin; the Common Dolphin, the Striped Dolphin and the Bottlenose Dolphin. Most of these species are sighted at lower instances, probably due to their presence at deeper depths and their migratory nature. These also include the sperm whale, one of the largest animals that ever roamed the planet. The rare occurrence of some of these species is why it was fascinating for those who managed to sight at some whales off the Maltese coasts.
The Common Dolphin, the Striped Dolphin and the Bottlenose Dolphin are the most frequently recorded all year round in our waters and commonly encountered by boaters. In assessing these three species, in terms by-catch, abundance and distribution across the Maltese waters, the populations of the three dolphins were found to be stable.
Although such data indicates the populations of the key species as stable, longer term monitoring is required. ERA is investing in such issues and is undergoing further monitoring studies. This will also include the establishment and pilot implementation of a long-term strategy for marine mammals in Maltese Waters, with funds attained through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).
Moreover, the Authority is also supporting ACCOBAMS (Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic area) on addressing underwater noise and marine litter as two major pressures on cetaceans, mainly in connection with training and exchange of knowledge. Malta shall also be hosting the ACCOBAMS 8th Meeting of the Parties (MOP8) in 2022, following Malta’s offer during MOP7, a proposal which was agreed to by all Parties to ACCOBAMS.
Ms Miraine Rizzo, an official of the Authority, noted that “Cetaceans are not only beautiful marine animals which people like to encounter, but they are also an important part of our marine ecosystems. It is within this context that we understand the need to step up the protection of such animals in Maltese marine waters and ERA is committed to continue to improve knowledge on their needs and to address human impact on such species”.
The full report is available here.
Information on selected marine fauna, including the three regular main dolphin species in Malta can be found here.
All marine mammals (which include dolphins, whales, the harbour porpoise and the monk seal) are strictly protected in Malta since 1992. Deliberate disturbance as well as killing such species is illegal, primarily through the Flora, Fauna and Natural Habitats Protection Regulations (SL 549.44). ERA coordinates a permitting system to ensure the implementation of such protection, has declared marine protected areas for such marine species, and finances rehabilitation in relation to stranded dolphins.
ACCOBAMS is the United Nations Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic area. This is a legal conservation tool based on cooperation between Contracting Parties with the intent to protect cetaceans and reduce threats to cetaceans notably by improving current knowledge on these animals. Malta is contracting party to this treaty. More information is available here.
24 October 2021