New Marine Protected Areas in Gozo
Dwejra and Mgarr ix-Xini are now established as new marine protected areas by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, MEPA. Other areas were also established in Malta, for a total of 18,000 hectares of the Maltese marine environment. The sites, which include a significant stretch of area along the North East of the Islands and three smaller areas at Mgarr ix-Xini, Dwejra and an area between Ghar Lapsi and Filfla, are being protected to preserve the underwater habitats in the area for the enjoyment of both the present and future generations.
The designation of Marine Protected Areas is another significant contribution towards the eco-Gozo action plan. This action plan, which includes eighty measures related to Sustainable Development, will be completed by 2012.
These newly-designated sites were primarily identified since they provide protection for over 80% of Posidonia beds found in the Maltese Islands. Posidonia beds commonly referred to in Maltese as alka are a priority habitat which is given special importance by the European Union, since these habitats in the Mediterranean provide both food and shelter for a number of marine species, act as a carbon sink and protect sandy beaches from sand depletion. These sites were also chosen for their geographical representation and good conservation status of this habitat.
While the designated Marine Protected Areas will enjoy a high degree of environmental protection, this does not imply that all activities occurring or proposed within them will automatically be prohibited. Any proposed activity will be assessed in terms of the likelihood and significance of their impact on the biodiversity for which the site was protected. Furthermore, management plans for these marine protected areas will ensure the sustainable management of natural resources in these protected areas with the full involvement of all stakeholders.