SOS Marine life!

SOS Marine life! Conserve Natives & Control Aliens

Mediterranean marine biodiversity is under threat due to the introduction of almost 1000 non-indigenous species with new species continuously being spotted. Their entry into the Mediterranean is mostly facilitated by shipping activities from the Atlantic and the Red Sea.

The Conservation Biology Research Group at the University of Malta (CBRG-UM) has been actively working with sea users, including commercial and recreational fishermen, scuba divers, skin divers, Transport Malta, the AFM and the NGO BICREF, for many years .

The purpose of this successful collaboration is long-term conservation research efforts to monitor changes in local marine species. This has led to various discoveries including new alien species in Maltese waters.

Some aliens such as, the Cocoa damselfish, the Indopacific sergeant, the Squirrelfish, the Niger hind, the African Sergeant and the Dory snapper have been recorded the Mediterranean for the first time by the CBRG-UM. This work is accompanied by detailed genetic analyses that allow not only the confirmation of the species identification but may also give an insight on the specimen’s geographic origin.

This research group has recorded the presence of the lionfish in Maltese waters in 2016 and continues to follow on these cases through the immediate communications from fishermen, SCUBA divers and other sea users.

Some of these non-native species have now adapted to their new environment, reproducing and rapidly increasing in numbers with the risk of destabilising native ecological communities.

This is a serious situation that may impoverish native marine life through the invasiveness of some of these species that grow without control.  Examples of such invasive species include different species of pufferfish, the blue swimmer crab and the dusky spinefoot. The CBRG-UM is led by conservation biology expert, Prof Adriana Vella and the alien species project is undertaken in collaboration with Dr Sandra Agius Darmanin, Dr Noel Vella and ngo BICREF volunteers.

Transport Malta has issued a notice to inform mariners to report sightings immediately:

Click here to access Notice to Mariners.

To supplement ongoing field research efforts, sea users are encouraged to continue to report any sightings of alien or strange species apart from various other native species by uploading relevant information and photos here.

For donations of alien specimens for conservation research, you may contact:

Prof Vella on +356 99429592 and/or Dr Agius Darmanin on +356 99820014.

Specimens that contribute to new discoveries and therefore to timely conservation and mitigation measures, will be eligible for a thank you token provided by a sponsor (More information can be found here.   As long-term conservation research and monitoring is essential to safeguard native biodiversity in Maltese waters, sponsors are helpful to this goal.

Thank you for your support to Maltese Conservation Research and Awareness.