The HARMONY project will investigate seabed integrity and Non-Indigenous Species (NIS) at Posidonia oceanica, maërl and Dendropoma petraeum reef habitats, across the following Marine Protected Areas (MPAs):

  • Two National MPAs (Isole Pelagie and Capo Gallo Isola delle Femmine, Sicily),
  • Two Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) (Fondali di Capo San Marco and Fondali dell’Isola di Capo Passero, Sicily);
  • Special Protection Zones in the Stretto di Messina, Sicily, and
  • Two SCIs (Żona fil-Baħar bejn il-Ponta ta’ San Dimitri (Għawdex) u Il-Qaliet and Żona fil-Baħar bejn Rdum Majjiesa u Għar Lapsi, Malta).


HARMONY aims to suggest a set of monitoring and control measures between cross-border regions of Sicily and Malta providing actions between the two regions to recognise:

1. seafloor integrity and the inhabiting species, and
2. effects of habitat fragmentation in facilitating the diffusion of NIS.

By integrating these two aspects, HARMONY will improve our understanding of marine ecosystem functioning in a cross-border context. Due to their cross-border relationship, Italy and Malta can benefit from building a common framework and a set of aligned approaches addressing shared and similar biological resources. Additionally, these can reflect both country’s similar social and economic structures, helping to avoid future stakeholder conflicts and preventing the loss of goods and ecosystem services.

By focussing on D.2 (NIS) and D.6 (Sea-floor integrity) descriptors from the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), HARMONY will develop proposals for integrated actions and measures relating to seafloor integrity and NIS to feed into the management plans of the relevant Natura 2000 sites and habitats.

Furthermore, the creation of an Italian-Maltese network of universities, research institutes and stakeholders operating in the environmental protection sector will enable:

1. the use of monitoring and control tools for seafloor integrity and NIS, as well as respective socio-economic activities;
2. integration of the European strategy for smart and sustainable Blue Growth, and
3. support competent authorities at European, National and Regional levels via awareness and knowledge of measures on how to deal with the loss of biodiversity, and how to maintain and restore marine ecosystems.

Neptune Grass
Photo courtesy of Prof. Alan Deidun and the HARMONY project Consortium

HARMONY outputs will produce joint strategy recommendations and develop common EDRR tools (Early Detection & Rapid Response) to address NIS challenges in Italy and Malta. Monitoring networks based on participatory processes (citizen science) will also take place, in order to help align policy actions between Italy and Malta. Such policy actions will help inform potential shared governance structures for the transboundary threat of NIS for Italy and Malta.

Photo courtesy of Prof. Alan Deidun and the HARMONY project Consortium

Project Details

PROJECT TITLE HARMONY – Armonizzazione Italo-Maltese per un buono stato dell’ambiente: integrità dei fondali ed interazione con le specie invasive per preservare il funzionamento degli ecosistemi marini
DURATION 28 February 2018 – February 2021
TOTAL BUDGET € 1,675,245.76
EU CONTRIBUTION € 1,377,467.50


LEAD UniPa – University of Palermo
PARTNERS Ispra – (Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research); CNR-IAMC – (The Institute for the Coastal Marine Environment of the National Research Council); REGSIC – (The Regional Fishing Directorate); UOM – (University of Malta); DFA – (Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture); ERA – (Environment and Resources Authority).

Further information on the project can be accessed through the following links: