The Malta Independent, 11th October 2008 –

Malta has declared new More protected areas in Malta have been included within the Natura 2000 Network, a network of protected areas across the European Union, the Malta Environment and Planning Authority announced yesterday. The additions were made in view of the provisions for the protection of threatened natural habitats and species of importance established through the EC Birds and Habitats Directives.

Considering the Birds Directive, a new site was designated as a Special Protection Area in the southwest of Malta – the ‘Wied Moqbol to Il-Ponta ta’ Benghisa’ area. This site covers the coastal cliffs of the area, in view of its seabird communities. Additionally, the already designated Special Protection Area constituting the cliffs at Ta’ Cenc was extended, so that the whole of the plateau area is now afforded protection.

With respect to provisions of the Habitats Directive, the whole area of Ta’ Cenc, including both the cliffs and the plateau, has been declared as a Special Area of Conservation in view of the various natural habitats and plant species found in the area.

These sites have been selected for inclusion in the Natura 2000 Network in view of the various important habitats and species present in this area.

The previous submissions made by Malta on the designation of sites indicated that the sufficiency of Malta in designating terrestrial sites under the Habitats Directive was over 90 per cent (as at June 2007), which is seen as an excellent result. The inclusion of Ta’ Cenc within the network is expected to increase Malta’s sufficiency value considerably.

Further surveys and data collection will refine and complete work in relation to sites designated on land, and work is also in hand for the selection of further marine sites, with one site having been designated to date.

Once protected, Malta is to maintain or improve the conservation status of the sites forming part of the Natura 2000 Network. The management of designated sites is to be considered within a maximum of six years from when the European Commission accepts the sites within the Natura 2000 Network.