The national species of Malta are the following:
|Scientific name||Maltese name||English name||Designation||Criteria|
|Aphanius fasciatus||il-bużaqq||Mediterranean killifish||National fish||(a)(c)(e)(g)|
|Monticola solitarius||il-merill, iċ-ċikkudiddiju||Blue rock-thrush||National bird||(a)(c)(f)(g)|
|Palaeocyanus crassifolius [=Cheiroophus crassifolius]||widnet il-baħar||Maltese rock-centaury||National plant||(a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)(g)|
|Potamon fluviatile lanfrancoi||il-qabru; il-granċ tal-ilma ħelu||Maltese freshwater crab||National invertebrate||(a)(b)(c)(d)(e)(f)(g)|
|Tetraclinis articulata [=Callitris quadrivalvis]||l-għargħar||Arar tree, alerce, sandarac gum tree||National tree||(a)(c)(d)(e)(f)(g)|
Criteria for selection
The following criteria for selection were identified to designate National Species, provided that such species are in line with one or more of the following:
(a) wild species native to Malta or are representative of the Maltese flora and fauna; or
(b) wild species endemic to the Maltese Islands and its waters; or
(c) species of particular importance because of their scientific, ecological, biodiversity, biogeographical, landscape or educational interest; or
(d) species with specific cultural or historical connection with Malta and its identity; or
(e) threatened, rare and possibly extinct species, particularly species with a restricted distribution in Malta; or
(f) charismatic species that serve as a symbol or focus point to raise environmental awareness and consciousness and can be employed as flagship species; or
(g) species with the potential to enhance acceptance of habitat preservation or capable of favourably influencing attitudes towards environment conservation and management; or
(h) species which in the competent authority’s opinion contain similarly relevant criteria.
Existing conservation measures on the proposed National Species:
The national bird (MT: il-merill; EN: Blue rock-thrush; SN: Monticola solitarius)
This thrush is known from the Palaearctic region and was declared the National Bird in 1971, in response to its exploitation as a caged bird. It is legally protected through the Conservation of Wild Birds Regulations (S.L. 549.42) and is subject to surveillance, monitoring and conservation measures as part of the Natura 2000 network. The blue rock-thrush is known from coastal cliffs in Malta, Gozo and Comino, as well as from St Paul’s Islands and Fungus Rock, besides bastions in the harbour area. All coastal cliffs and the cited islets have management measures in place, which aim at ensuring the long-term maintenance of the range, population size, and habitat of this species. Moreover, the area at il‑Majjistral and Għajn Tuffieħa are administered through the Majjistral Park and a Management Agreement, both of which involve ERA as the Competent Authority and the Ministry for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning (MECP) as the lead Ministry. Additionally, id‑Dwejra/il-Qawra area is also subject to a Management Plan and the coordination of the Dwejra Steering Committee. In terms of awareness, the species is widely respected as the national bird, and was featured in stamps, posters and official currency (i.e. the former LM1 coin).
The national fish (MT: il-buzaqq, EN: Mediterranean killifish; SN: Aphanius fasciatus)
This species is a brackish water fish found in the Mediterranean coastal area; in Malta, it is mostly found in saline marshlands. The Mediterranean killifish is already legally protected through the Flora, Fauna and Natural Habitats Protection Regulations (S.L. 549.44), and is subject to surveillance, monitoring and conservation measures as part of the Natura 2000 network. The species is known from good populations at is‑Simar and l‑inħawi tal‑Għadira, but from lower populations at is‑Salini and il‑Magħluq tal‑Baħar ta’ Marsaskala (l/o Marsaskala). In situ conservation is addressed through Management Agreements with BirdLife Malta in relation to is‑Simar, l‑Għadira and is‑Salini, and with Nature Trust Malta (NTM) with respect to il‑Magħluq. Research is also ongoing, in collaboration from the University of Malta in some of the management sites. Additionally, ERA has authorised the execution of ‘The Killifish Conservation Project’ since 2015, led by NTM and the Malta Aquaculture Research Centre (MARC). The primary objective of this project is to implement a captive‑breeding programme to secure a viable population in captivity of il‑Magħluq and is‑Salini populations, which can be used to enhance the natural populations, and raise awareness and educate the public about the importance of preserving this species and its habitats.
The national plant (MT: widnet il-baħar; EN: Maltese rock-centaury; SN: Palaeocyanus crassifolius)
This very rare and endangered shrub is endemic to the Maltese Islands, mostly known from selected coastal cliffs in Malta and Gozo. It was declared the National Plant in 1971 due to its rarity and importance as a flagship species, and is legally protected through the Flora, Fauna and Natural Habitats Protection Regulations (S.L. 549.44). The Maltese rock-centaury is subject to surveillance, monitoring and conservation measures to ensure the maintenance of range, population size, and habitat of this species, with some of such sites being actively managed. The ornamental species is also propagated ex situ and is also promoted and used in public gardens, urban and rural settings. It was also featured in stamps, posters and official currency (the third series of the LM1 banknote).
The national invertebrate (MT: il-qabru; EN: Maltese freshwater crab; SN: Potamon fluviatile lanfrancoi)
The Maltese freshwater crab is the only endemic decapod in the Maltese Islands, being limited to a number of areas with perennial or near‑perennial springs, which are capable of holding fresh water for the whole year. It is legally protected through the Flora, Fauna and Natural Habitats Protection Regulations (S.L. 549.44). Its conservation measures are addressed through the approved Water Catchment Management Plan (which addresses freshwater habitats and related impacts); the Natura 2000 management plans (which cover most of the areas where the species is found, and include measures that address invasive alien species, affecting this endemic species); and the related “Dossier on exploited terrestrial animals” (which includes the Maltese freshwater crab. The species was also featured in stamps, posters and official currency (the former 5c coin).
The national tree (MT: l-għargħar; EN: Sandarac gum tree; SN: Tetraclinis articulata)
A rare tree species, of which about 100+ individuals occur in the wild, all on the island of Malta. The sandarac gum tree is unreported as a native species on other Maltese Islands; indeed, this conifer is mostly confined to the island of Malta and the region of Murcia in Spain in Europe. It is essentially a Maghrebian African element (known from Morocco to Tunisia). The sandarac gum tree was declared as the National Tree in 1992 and is legally protected through the Flora, Fauna and Natural Habitats Protection Regulations (S.L. 549.44) and the Trees and Woodland Protection Regulations (S.L. 549.123). Its habitat is also subject to the surveillance, monitoring and conservation measures as part of the Natura 2000 network. In this respect, the Conservation Order at il‑Maqluba and the management plan for Wied il‑Miżieb have management measures in place to ensure the long term maintenance, structure and functioning of such species and its habitats. Actions have already been taken to remove waste, debris and invasive alien species in the latter area, with the collaboration of the Mellieħa Local Council and the farmers of the area. Moreover, a number of sites with this species are declared as Tree Protection Areas. The sandarac gum tree was extensively used in landscaping, and was also featured in official posters and other awareness raising material.
For more information on the National Species, refer to:
- BioSnippet- Blue rock-thrush
- BioSnippet- Mediterranean killifish
- BioSnippet- Maltese rock-centaury
- BioSnippet- Maltese freshwater crab
- BioSnippet- Sandarac gum tree
- Poster – Blue rock-thrush
- Poster – Mediterranean killifish
- Poster – Maltese rock-centaury
- Poster – Maltese freshwater crab
- Poster – Sandarac gum tree
The new Species Protection (Designation of National Species) Regulations (S.L. 549.120) came into force on 23rd January 2018. These Regulations strengthen the level of legal protection of the above species by increasing the penalties for contraventions against such National Species. In addition, the Regulations promote the conservation, surveillance and monitoring of these species.