Each Member State of the European Union has the obligation, under the EC Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), of contributing to the creation of the Natura 2000 network. This must be in proportion to the Member State’s representation within its territory of the natural habitat types and the habitats of species specified in the Annexes of this Directive; the selected sites are referred to as Sites of Community Importance (SCIs). In addition to this, the EC Birds Directive (2009/147/EC) requires Member States to protect naturally occurring wild birds and their habitats; the measures to be considered in order to affect this include, amongst others, the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs).
Consequent to such obligations, Malta has submitted to the European Commission a number of sites to form part of this important network. The first submission was made back in 2004, following an extensive data collation and evaluation exercise, with the assistance of national experts, commissioned through a grant of the Council of Europe as part of the Emerald network project. Further submissions and updates were made along the years, following the collation and review of additional scientific data, as well as discussions with Directorate-General for Environment.
The submission of sites to the European Commission entails the preparation of a datasheet, related to each site, in a format established by the Commission, as presented in the Commission Implementing Decision 2011/484/EU, accompanied by the boundaries for each site. Datasheets and maps for sites designated in Malta are available here.
To date, Malta has the following declared under the:
- 4 proposed Sites of Community Importance (pSCIs);
- 10 Sites of Community Importance (SCIs), and;
- 27 Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)
- 22 Special Protection Areas (SPAs).
The above include both terrestrial and marine sites. Some SACs completely overlap with SPAs, whilst some other SACs and SCIs partially overlap. When considering land area, over 43.7km2 (13.8%) is covered by Natura 2000 sites; while when considering the marine environment, such sites cover 4,138km2 (35.5% of Maltese waters).
Malta has reached a high degree of sufficiency
Malta is very advanced in its progress to designate terrestrial sites under the EC Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). Its preparations reached a high percentage under the sufficiency index – 92.64% as of June 2008, as indicated in the Note on Sufficiency. This figure is the highest percentage among the States that acceded the EU in 2004 (see graph below: light green – acceded in 2004; blue – acceded before 2004; dark green – acceded after 2004).
The graph below provides an update on the state of progress in reaching sufficiency for the designation of Sites of Community Importance under the EC Habitats Directive for 2013.
The evaluation of sufficiency is not only based on the range of each habitat and species in the full territory of each Member State, but also within each of the proposed sites. To reach 100% sufficiency, data has to be updated, the proposed sites must be extended, or new sites must be proposed; such work by Malta has already been considered to achieve such objectives, and this has been communicated accordingly with the European Commission.
Reference is made to the additional information provided on the Natura 2000 newsletter.