“Waves of Life”, a new one hour long documentary on our natural heritage has become reality, through a grant by the Vodafone Malta Foundation allowing the Biological Conservation Research Foundation (BICREF) to produce it.
Five years in the making, this documentary is the fruit of days, months and years of observations, photography and filming by BICREF volunteers. This production reveals the beauty, diversity and life of creatures around us and also focuses on those dwelling in our beautiful sea. The viewer is transported through time, environmental conditions and values. Scenes and knowledge of wonderful and curious organisms allow us to consider our ecological footprints on this Planet Earth.
“Waves of Life” features over 150 local species, from minute sea horses to majestic whales, and goes through the issues of: What biodiversity is; How it has become increasingly important for us to study and protect; and Why it is of both local and global importance in our strive to survive and develop while depending on a diversity of natural resources to sustain us. This documentary is a tribute to: the 2010 Target to Halt Biodiversity loss; the ACCOBAMS’ partners’ efforts to promote cetacean conservation in the Mediterranean and; to the International Year dedicated to Dolphins 2008 by UNEP.
Aerial, terrestrial and marine shots and footage are merged to produce a very interesting and educational documentary for the whole family to learn from. It is thought provoking and encourages positive action.
BICREF has already produced a set of six mini documentaries in 2002 which had been aired on various local and foreign TV channels and it was through the encouragement and positive feedback received that this organization was determined to start working on a new one since then.
At a time when the Maltese public is increasingly aware of its environmental responsibilities and requests more information on biodiversity, it is constructive to have “Wave of Life” aired on our TV channels soon for anyone to cherish.
Click here for news clip with access to documentary 30sec Promo
Sustainable development also involves careful selection of the means used to obtain our future energy requirments.
BICREF is alarmed at the degradation and impoverishment of our seas and coasts due to wastes, runoffs, noise and human activities. After ten years of assistance in ongoing marine conservation research around Maltese coasts it is clear that pollution and over-fishing are causing a drastic reduction of marine species' stocks and populations. As international research efforts point out the far reaching impacts of pollution on humans and nature, this is of particular concern to the Mediterranean Sea which is well known to suffer the effects of these impacts on various species, especially those at the top of the food chain. Among these top predators one finds dolphins, toothed whales, tunas, and sharks.
The ongoing turtle and cetacean conservation research, BICREF has actively been assisting, has also allowed the observation of increased number of sighting of undernourished dolphins. BICREF has also assisted in numerous and increasing numbers of turtles injured when feeding on fish bait which is hooked to fishing lines. The greater the exploitation of fish and the degradation of our seas the more the competition for the limited food may cause such species to survive at the limits.
BICREF thus demands greater action on marine species protection through management that takes the increasing threats to these species into consideration. Monitoring and research need to be encouraged and supported to allow for sustainable use of our natural resources.
Upcoming development plans for alternative energy (such as wind farms) and drilling for oil operations in our sea should also take into consideration the possible impacts of these activities on our marine biodiversity, including fish stocks that are important to both fishermen and threatened, legally protected species. Indeed as other viable means are available for obtaining the energy required, such as solar energy, one should seriously consider the options before selecting developments that may not be environmentally sustainable.
Turtle conservation work
Turtle Rescue 25th October 2008
Another loggerhead turtle rescue mission sees, a Sailing boat crew, MMA, AFM, BICREF and Dr. Adriana Vella of the University of Malta collaborating to make sure that the turtle found hooked on a fishing long-line out at sea finds its way to the rehabilitation centre at San Lucjan. These entities have been collaborating for many years to assist in this necessary turtle conservation work. BICREF also assists in ongoing turtle conservation research run by the University of Malta's Conservation Biology Research Group.
Protecting Wild Marine Turtles and Safeguarding Pet Terrapins
A Loggerhead turtle finds its way to the Marsa Power station and is taken out of the water from Enemalta personnel on Sunday 28th September. The turtle was then collected and transported to San Lucjan for rehabilitation by conservation biologist, Dr. A. Vella of the University of Malta, with BICREF volunteer assistance. This assistance is being given as part of ongoing turtle conservation research at the University of Malta.
At the rehabilitation centre the turtle received preliminary care prior to a veterinary check-up, by Mr. C. Sammut. The turtle showed to have a broken carapace and to have swallowed a fishing hook with nylon long-line.
BICREF would like to point out that the various turtles needing assistance around the Maltese Islands often suffer from such conditions, together with ingestion of wrappers and plastics found in our seas. To conserve legally protected marine turtles in our seas focused work needs to be promoted and supported, such as, the ongoing conservation research at the University and rehabilitation at the San Lucjan centre.
On the same day another turtle was reported to need assistance at B’Bugia Bay. This turtle turned out to be a dead freshwater red-eared terrapine, locally kept as pet. BICREF stresses the need to make sure that the increasing number of exotic pets brought into our Country is kept under some control, making sure that persons keeping such creatures do not lose sight of or dispose of them carelessly.
BICREF’s local awareness on TV!
Minibugz’ kids program is one of the local informal awareness efforts of BICREF this summer in collaboration with the Minibugz TV production team. Increasing numbers of kids are joining in the BICREF’s kids competition and the feed back is great!! Well done to all those participating and to Minibugz team for their wonderful assistance.
For more information on the gifts BICREF is making available on its tenth year anniversary as fund raising effort for the urgent conservation work needed, just send an email to BICREF after looking at the BICREF merchandise list in the downloads page.
EU's decision to stop large scale blue fin tuna fishing
The Biological Conservation Research Foundation (BICREF) supports the EU's decision to stop large scale blue fin tuna fishing and stop illegal fishing operations. From the very onset of tuna penning in Malta, BICREF indicated the relevant issues to protect Maltese blue fin tuna artisinal fishing, the blue fin tuna stock spawning south of the Maltese Islands and the coastal ecosystem that would have become affected by such large tuna penning operations, from early on.
It is a great pity that now Malta would need to suffer various other problems including being reputed, with some other countries, to be responsible of drastically decreasing blue fin tuna in our seas, when indeed prior to tuna penning, the Maltese fishermen community fishing on blue fin tuna shared the catch amongst them, and was reputed to be legal and sustainable.
BICREF having another busy summer:
Conservation research, cetacean and turtle surveys’ assistance, turtle rescues’ assistance.
World Ocean Day (8th of June) and BICREF's Tenth Anniversary:
Never tired to work for our wonderful blue planet
The Biological Conservation Research Foundation (BICREF) celebrates its tenth year of ongoing efforts toward conservation research and awareness. This year BICREF will continue with its long-term projects which include the cetacean (dolphin and whale) and turtle field research, coastal marine and terrestrial biodiversity research. Any person is invited to join BICREF and these ongoing projects.
Active BICREF members have left no stone unturned for the safeguard of our natural environment and have never undermined nature conservation for economic favors or any other benefits. BICREF has been at the fore to assist and promote scientific field surveys out at sea and to show the real wonders of and threats to our blue seas.
BICREF's roving photographic exhibition of dolphins in Maltese waters is an example of such achievements allowing locals and visitors to appreciate these splendid and important species making part of our marine biodiversity. Schools have used and still are invited to request this exhibition and other BICREF educational material which include posters and documentaries.
BICREF has also pushed forward important conservation awareness efforts on tuna penning and bluefin tuna conservation in the central Mediterranean region by focusing on the need for sustainable use of marine biodiversity and the safeguard of marine species and habitats through its plea for local conservation management and establishment of effective protected areas. Of course all this would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of BICREF's founder Adriana Vella, a conservation biologist who took on board the challenge of expanding her academic conservation research efforts to a wider public. This combination empowered both locals and foreigners to give a tangible contribution to local conservation projects.
Especially at a time when we are threatened by ever faster declining species populations, habitat degradation and climate change impacts on our islands and seas, BICREF's volunteers feel it is a responsibility of our generation to act and conserve for future generations. BICREF has worked in collaborations with local and foreign ngos to enhance better use of knowledge for improving our development operations and also insisted that when knowledge is missing the precautionary principle needs to take precedence.
Our seas and oceans play a crucial role in preserving the Earth's climate and ocean biodiversity is susceptible to drastic changes in our climate. World Ocean Day (8th of June) is an international effort aiming at endorsing the important role played by our seas in sustaining life on Earth. It also highlights the need to appreciate the limitations and vulnerabilities of our seas inhabited with millions of different species interlinked and specialized after millions of years of evolution. Introduced in 2002 (Ecotourism year) the BICREF SCUBA and snorkel biodiversity project is a lovely way of learning, sharing experiences and assisting in taking records of species around our coasts. However BICREF managed to involve various sea users from fishermen to yachtsmen to contribute their observations to complement local scientific work on marine organisms at central and southern regional level.
Our changing seas and the life forms in them need to be understood so as to allow us to be in a better position to plan and improve our future quality of life. Many of us have noted all to well the increasing number of jellyfish in our seas year after year. But how many of us realize that even jellyfish species are different, with some species that feed on juvenile fish while others on other jellyfish. The former jellyfish type has the disadvantage of impoverishing our seas further, whereas the latter provides the advantage of keeping other jellyfish numbers under control. Research, monitoring and actions are required if we wish to conserve our beautiful seas.
Risso’s dolphin Carcass washed ashore
Ghajn Tuffieha Bay, part of a Conservation Area, is where a Risso’s dolphin’s carcass was washed ashore and reported to MEPA inspectorate on the 2nd of February. The Risso’s Dolphin is an offshore species and is characterized by a rounded head and large body, growing to about four metres in length. As part of Malta’s Cetacean Stranding protocol, persons with a specific MEPA permit may assist, examine, measure and collect samples for further research.
Cetacean researcher, Dr. Adriana Vella, from the Conservation Biology Research Group (CBRG) of the University of Malta, and members from the Biological Conservation Research Foundation (BICREF), have been collaborating to promote scientific whale and dolphin field research and conservation in Maltese waters and in the Central Mediterranean Region.
As such the collection of data from dead stranded specimens is an important complement to such ongoing local detailed field work. The CBRG also makes use of molecular genetics analyses in its conservation research and therefore has been collecting tissue samples from local dead stranded cetaceans for population studies in the region toward better understanding the links between various groups residing in the central Mediterranean.
The local merging of both field work and sophisticated laboratory techniques allows for maximum efficiency in understanding the conservation needs of these marine mammal species, we are still privileged to find in our waters.
Dr. Vella, of the CBRG, has run the local long-term field cetacean research in this region of the Mediterranean, since 1997, and is National contact person for the European Cetacean Society and a partner of ACCOBAMS.
Assisting turtles in difficulty
BICREF - The Biological Conservation Research Foundation
It is good to report another turtle’s survival through prompt action and kind assistance by sea users and marina employees. A loggerhead turtle that has been nicknamed Naomi from its rescuers, has found its way to the rehabilitation centre at San Lucjan, after being spotted close to a floater with a hook in its beak, some good distance offshore. The vessel’s captain handed the turtle to the Manoel Island Marina employees (Melita Marine Group) who kindly took care of it and transported it to San Lucjan for care where it joined other turtles receiving similar attention.
BICREF takes this opportunity to stress the importance of such prompt and caring action to help such legally protected species that deserve our consideration and assistance. BICREF gladly assists any sea-user or fisherman who is not already knowledgeable on what needs to be done in such emergencies. MEPA has its nature protection inspectorate that assists in cases dealing with protected species and may be called too.
Unfortunately as turtles approach our coasts, they may be hit by jet-skis and speed boats that are often too fast for turtles to escape when they are at the surface to bask in the sun and to breathe. Increasing marine pollution, plastics, and various fishing activities do not assist turtle survival either. Indeed BICREF noted an increasing number of turtle deaths last summer, when regrettably the turtles did not even make it to rehabilitation.
2007 ECO Aware and Care Restaurant Awards by BICREF:
Bringing Marine Conservation to our Menus!
The Biological Conservation Research Foundation (BICREF)
December 2007-January 2008
Unsustainable and irresponsible fishing threatens marine life and degradates marine habitats. This can happen especially when fishing is not monitored and managed properly. On the other hand, careful management and wiser consumer practices assist fisheries toward remaining productive and environmentally friendly. For example, when tuna fishing with purse-seine was found to kill thousands of dolphins, many consumers decreased or eliminated tuna from their diets until fishers and industry took into consideration and deployed dolphin-friendly nets and monitoring. Though some countries and fishing industries have gone forward in their efforts to protect marine life as a whole, others still need to work harder and be encouraged by consumers to do so. Therefore consumers that wish to contribute toward marine conservation should have access to information on seafoods’ origin and fisheries management in order to be in a position to make responsible choices when purchasing sea food or eating out. Unless unsustainable practices do not reverse course, marine biodiversity face continued decline and extinction.
In general, restaurants should keep various things in mind in their management practices, toward a more environmentally friendly operation. Dinegreen (http://www.dinegreen.com/twelvesteps.asp) states that restaurants can work toward for example: Energy and Water Efficiency & Conservation; Pollution Prevention; Using locally grown foods to reduce the amount of pollution associated with transportation primarily by fossil fuels, etc. In the same way marine products need to be assessed for their origin, way of capture, measures to safeguard the wild stock and habitat in the wild and if from aquaculture the methods used to grow such fish. Local aquaculture and fisheries products that respect environmental quality and species conservation should be greatly promoted and selected for, as opposed to those that do not.
BICREF felt that the Maltese Sea food restaurants may set an example to other local restaurants toward coming to terms not only with the various environmental challenges mentioned above but also focus on the promotion of sea food that is exploited in respect of working toward sustainable fisheries and marine habitat conservation.
Toward this end BICREF, sought out the collaboration of the Conservation Biology Research Group (CBRG) of the University of Malta, in starting to set local priorities in consideration of marine organisms requiring urgent conservation research and management including education in the seafood restaurant industry. A brief questionnaire was forwarded to a sample of about 100 Maltese Sea food restaurants to obtain an indication of local knowledge on: species abundance; conservation needs; fishing techniques utilised to catch the marine species bought by the restaurant; apart from the demands; and choices of customers for these species. The results highlight the increasing awareness by some restaurants’ chefs and managers that indeed various local marine species are on the decline and that local catch often does not suffice the demand thus needing to import items. It was also positive to note that these same restaurants looked forward to be of assistance in local marine conservation projects led by the CBRG of University of Malta toward understanding better the populations of species which show to be in danger of going extinct or declining locally.
The CBRG has been active in conservation biology research related to wild stock fisheries for years and has investigated by-catch of local fishing methods while investigating local stocks that show signs of decline, such as the common octopus, shark species, blue fin tuna and others. Such conservation research is essential toward improving responsible fishing and sustainable exploitation of our marine resources. Scientific research and monitoring can guide local industries make sustainable use of wild stocks and natural resources.
After a year of work with some local restaurants, BICREF, in consultation with the CBRG, has selected and awarded the Eco-Seafood Restaurants the 2007 ECO Aware and Care Restaurant Awards. Among the 16 seafood restaurants that were selected as runners up for this award for 2007 the following ranked the highest:
1. In Gozo, the awards went to: Il-Kartell Restaurant in Marsalforn for 1st place, followed by It-Tmun Restaurant in Xlendi.
2. In Malta, the awards went to: Villa Corinthia Restaurant at San Anton for 1st place, followed by San Giuliano Restaurant in St. Julians and Oceana Restaurant in Portomaso.
BICREF looks forward to see this collaborative and conservation project continue in the coming years and thanks all restaurants that have spent time to fill-up and forward there questionnaires, answer any additional queries from researchers and decide to participate in scientific conservation research projects with great enthusiasm.
To assist consumers, sea-food restaurants and fishermen, BICREF plans to expand on this year’s effort and produce leaflets with marine species needing greatest attention, with an indication of their local conservation status and requirements. This project aims to increase the public’s and industries’ awareness and participation in urgent marine conservation needs.
Discovering and Conserving our Sea Life
Released on the Independent on Sunday on the 23rd of December 07
The Biological conservation research foundation (BICREF) is very active in marine and coastal biodiversity surveys and SCUBA divers, snorkeling and sailing enthusiasts assist in its long-term marine biodiversity data collection. Biodiversity research is fundamental to BICREF as it believes many of the uncontrolled local developments and activities with negative environmental impacts may very well be the cause of misinformation, gaps in local biodiversity knowledge and lack of awareness of the importance of biodiversity to life on and around our Islands. Biodiversity research efforts may pave the way to understanding better how the incredible network of living organisms have adapted through time and will be affected by the increasing and synergistic environmental changes around us.
In particular the BICREF SCUBA Biodiversity Project that has run this year with the Sponsorship from the international AWARE Foundation, has led to a renewed and increased assistance by most local SCUBA schools. Amongst these, Sea Shell Dive Centre, Oxygene, Subway, Neptunes, H20, Nautic Team, Dive shake and Gozo Aqua Sport, gave the greatest assistance. With their support to this project they have also projected their good example to tourists and locals to better appreciate and assist in conservation research projects that may fill the gaps of local knowledge in our marine biodiversity.
These centres, schools and clubs have also found a perfect ally in their marine experience in collaborating with BICREF as various curious animals unknown to them where identified and clearly described by BICREF’s experienced researchers. BICREF also collaborates with various SCUBA schools in planning educational courses on marine biodiversity and conservation. It is also positive to note that various SCUBA centres have offered partial sponsorships to BICREF to undertake its own underwater research. With tourists and locals increasingly fascinated by our underwater world it is also a responsible act to give something back to that same nature that gives so much to us all. Research, monitoring and awareness are fundamental to any conservation planning and management.