BICREF – RMSR since 2000 to recent

BICREF – RMSR since 2000 to recent

The BICREF-Rolex Middle Sea Race project running since 2000 is still going strong

The citizen science project launched by BICREF ngo in collaboration with the Royal Malta Yacht Club has seen hundreds of sailing crews forward dolphin, whale and often turtle sightings during the 606nm Rolex Middle Sea Race in the Central Mediterranean sea.

The 2016 BICREF-RMSR Award: BICREF inspires mariners to go for the environmental challenge

BICREF sets out on this incredibly positive experience with yachtsmen from all over the world back in 2000 and has managed to maintain this effort over the years, receiving compliments for both the project itself and for its determination in putting it into practise.

The 2016 winner of the increasingly prestigious BICREF–RMSR Best Dolphin and Whale Sightings Award was the crew of the Benemedo, with the crew of Unica as runner-up. BICREF has been assisting conservation biologist Dr Adriana Vella in her long-term research campaigns that involve most sea-users contributing to what has become a well-known national effort towards awareness and science in respect of these vulnerable species. Dolphins and whales in Maltese waters and beyond stand as flagship species for marine conservation.

Although Dr Vella’s research encompasses various other species and habitats needing protection, she has worked to involve people who are interested in various ways of increasing meaningful participation and learning in the process.  In fact, BICREF supplied all the RMSR participants with an identification key to allow them to learn about the different dolphin and whale species that can be seen in the central Mediterranean.


BICREF is grateful to all sailing participants who took this effort seriously and among these it is particularly thankful for the assistance received by the late commodore Arthur Podesta who had encouraged this project and supported it through the years setting an example too by having his crew of Elusive win this Environmental Award more than once. He too appreciated the need for environmental awareness and participation during sportive events and any other activity where anyone can contribute toward understanding and safeguarding our marine life.

This need and project has inspired local sea users to continue with this citizen science and conservation project over and above this race where anyone out at sea is welcome to forward sightings of these vulnerable species. Transport Malta has in fact also assisted in issuing notices to mariners through the years on this reporting of sightings out at sea by sea-users. At the same time BICREF volunteers assist ongoing field research organised by Dr. Adriana Vella. BICREF has presented results of this project at the European Cetacean Society Conference held in Malta in March 2015, acknowledging the involvement of the participants of this marine event.

The best entries for the 2015 sailing race have been received by the crew of the boats: Gargarin, which took away this year’s BICREF-RMSR AWARD, followed by Tram Cascius, Jarhead and Tekno Barrisol Keyif 60 amongst others. Though the weather was stormy at times, data was still forwarded with great passion for this wonderful Mediterranean Sea and its biodiversity.

The 2014 BICREF-RMSR Award: Integrating Passion and Science for Marine Conservation

The 15th edition of the BICREF-RMSR Award for the best dolphin and whale sightings reports went to the master and crew of the KEYIF 60.  This award has been organised by the Biological Conservation Research Foundation, BICREF – NGO which has been at the fore in promoting research and conservation awareness of marine life around the Maltese Islands but also in the whole of the Mediterranean.  Various runners up for this award include crews of the sailing

boats: No Relax, Salana, and UNICA. This BICREF project launched in 2000 with the initial sponsorship of the Westin Dragonara, has found the support of the Royal Malta Yacht Club and hundreds of Rolex Middle Sea Race participants through the years.

1BICREF RMSR Winners 2014_AVella&KEYIF 60

The trophy was this year sponsored by Vascas and was awarded to the winners during the RMSR prize-giving.  The trophy rewards the crew that best undertakes the challenge of integrating the sailing passion with knowledge gathering.  Various participants also reveal that the feeling of discovering and learning more about their own world is indeed alreadyrewarding and it is great that through such BICREF projects these opportunities have been facilitated through the years.

Through this annual effort, BICREF has been encouraging passionate sailing enthusiasts to contribute their time out at sea to appreciating the natural diversity of species, such as marine mammals and  turtles that surface to breathe air.   Marine mammals represented in these waters by various species of dolphins and whales are increasingly having to suffer from marine pollution:  chemical to plastics to noise, while facing problems associated with declining prey species, increasing exploitation of marine resources and a changing climate.  The status of dolphins and whales represents and often reflects the survival status of many other life forms in our sea, as they are at the top of the food chain and move extensively in this three-dimensional world. The central region of the Mediterranean Sea has been pin-pointed as being important to prospective conservation measures but has also seen human impacts and unsustainable developments threaten such prospects. Sustainable development needs the full support of all involved to allow future generations to have a good quality of life.

Awareness of biodiversity and its conservation through accurate and detailed data collection and integration has been at the heart of the long-term dedicated work of BICREF’s founder, Dr Adriana Vella, Ph.D (Cambridge) who lectures and trains students and volunteers in different aspects of conservation biology and its applications.  As part of her academic work Dr. Vella will also be contributing to the open week organised by the Discover University initiative and will be presenting a talk for school students on Friday 31st of October entitled “Will large predators be replaced by jellyfish?

 Below is a collage of photos of previous RMSR Winners;

RMSR Collage BICREF RMSR feature 2014

For more information on BICREF and how to take part in conservation actions send an email to:

The BICREF Rolex Middle Sea Race 2010

The Biological Conservation Research Foundation (BICREF) has again involved Rolex Middle Sea Race (RMSR) sailing crews participants to contribute to ongoing scientific cetacean research by providing details of any dolphin or whale sightings during this long race.

Now in its 11th Edition, the BICREF-RMSR has seen regular input of sighting data complement the year-round research undertaken by Dr. Adriana Vella from the Conservation Biology Research Group (CBRG) at the University of Malta. BICREF has been assisting in the promotion and awareness of this very demanding but necessary regional and local work.

Through the BICREF-RMSR Best Cetacean Recordings Award, both local and international sea-users have been increasingly aware of the needs of our sea and the cetaceans that inhabit it. Any sea-user is welcome to send in sightings of dolphins, whales, turtles, and many other marine organisms through BICREF’s marine conservation campaign which has been picking up momentum toward this very important year 2010 for Biodiversity. Volunteers from difference walks of life contribute to BICREF’s campaign and more are always welcome, as the work to do for our marine life’s protection is far from done.

Apart from the Royal Malta Yacht Club, Dr. Adriana Vella is involved in collaborations with many entities that through the years have assisted in this marine conservation research. Among these we find the Maritime Authority, the AFM, the Civil Protection, the police, the association of local councils, fishermen, divers and many sea-users. All have contributed in their way to sustain the inflow of data through the numerous years this regional research project has been running. BICREF has especially contributed since its foundation.

This year’s edition of the RMSR was not easy for most participants so it was particularly appreciated to see contributions of sightings still come in. The winners of this year’s BICREF-RMSR Award went to the skipper and crew of the 30m sailing boat, Mrs. Seven. The runners up for this Award included crews of Atame and BOV Plain Sailing. While previous years’ inputs have contributed sightings of both whales and dolphins, with more passionate contributors sending in data of all marine life seen along their sportive adventure out at sea, this year sightings were of two species of dolphins, fish species and birds. The strong winds in most of the trajectory did not stop these contributors from enjoying the company of fast dolphins that surfed the waves just to join these silent travelers as they cross rough seas at increasing speeds: Instances of races between man and dolphin in the midst of sea spray and cold winds.

BICREF’s Waves of Life one hour Award Winning documentary also documents this annual challenge between man, sea and cetaceans. This documentary is available on DVD and can be ordered through BICREF with all proceeds going for marine conservation work.