BICREF's Reflections for Environment Day 2005:
Our sea is also part of our
Times of Malta - Saturday 4th June 2005
The Maltese islands' coasts may be a paradise for any activities on and under water. Many tourists and local people enjoy the coast, such as snorkelers, SCUBA divers, or simply swimmers, but most of these users may not be aware to what extent our coasts are affected by disturbance and human impacts including pollution, noise, light and over fishing.
BICREF found a useful way, to involve us toward helping and assisting Maltese coastal areas through monitoring for conservation. This project involves all interested diving schools in Malta and Gozo in a project, where divers are encouraged to report organisms illustrated on a slate. This project aims at greater awareness and allows divers/ snorkelers to closely observe the diversity of life while recording their experience.
This information, once collected and passed on to BICREF, allows for record taking and analyses of changes, increases/ declines of organisms around our coasts, where divers dive. Through sustained conservation research and diver's collaboration with BICREF, this sensible method may give this sea, with all its beautiful and amazing organisms, a chance to survive through recommendations and implementations.
Coastal areas, caves and reefs need special care in order to be protected effectively. These areas are the homes to different, rare or vulnerable organisms which are reliant on shallow waters, and hiding places like stones, rocks, corals, or other sea plants and algae. SCUBA divers and snorkelers prefer these areas, because there is an interesting biodiversity and a lot to discover. This is the reason, why it is even more important to be aware of each habitat's and organism's needs.
Trampling, as well as uncontrolled paddling can destroy certain, rare and delicate organisms such as Corals. Fish and other species should never be touched or followed as they may be disturbed, scared away, and change their behaviour which results in changes and impacts on the whole ecosystem.
Wastes should not be left along the coasts, as these find their way to the seabed or float for miles. In each case different organisms may be adversely affected.
Every marine organism is a part of a complicated and unique ecosystem
and food chain.
Adequate monitoring and controlling is very important for the conservation of certain coastal areas and species. Long-term monitoring has the advantage of allowing closer observation of changes that would otherwise go ignored. To conserve and save special parts of seascapes and sea life, it is necessary to analyze and focus on the possible impacts, too. Monitoring allows for the observation of the natural status and development in the area.
To guarantee the sustainability of biodiversity, BICREF targets various activities and entities that may have an effect on coastal areas and biodiversity conservation and thus critically focuses on factors that lead to changes in coastal zone too.
SCUBA divers who spear fish mainly favour economically important organisms, which may be rare, endangered or vulnerable to extinction due their slow growth rate and fast exploitation or death rate. Some fish need a long period of time (sometimes many years) to be mature to reproduce. Extensive SCUBA spear fishing may prevent such species to reach maturity and contribute to future generations.
There exist many kinds of species which occur only in a certain environments along the coastal areas, they are part of unique habitats and complex food chains. In this case, the extinction/ loss of only one species of fish may have repercussions on the whole habitat.
SCUBA diving is an important part of Maltese tourism, and thus plays an important role in local welfare. However Maltese marine biodiversity's welfare needs much more attention, dedication and implementation in both research and education. Projects such as the BICREF biodiversity project, may assist in this process and may also highlight the positive contribution that tourists visiting the Maltese Islands can give.
To guarantee long-term sustainability of any activity related to local nature and biodiversity, the tourist and Maltese must be involved much more, and educated about the importance of marine conservation to save our seas. Toward this need, BICREF also contributes through training, education sessions and involvement of local and foreign volunteers in various conservation projects.
For Environment Day, BICREF was last year donated a dinghy from MECCA and General Soft Drinks in order to undertake coastal marine research with greater ease. This year BICREF will be contributing by strengthening its conservation research efforts and giving educational talks to children and general public at various venues where BICREF has been invited to participate, such as at the IMAX for its Environment week.
BICREF looks forward to seeing our marine life and coastal areas given the merit they deserve and still believes that Maltese marine conservation areas need to become reality soon.
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