Brussels warns Malta of lack of protection for offshore reefs and caves
Brussels has initiated infringement proceedings against Malta for failing to offer protection for reefs or sea caves in its offshore marine area.
The island has also not provided sufficient scientific evidence to justify not proposing any sites, the European Commission has said.
In an announcement on Thursday, Brussels said it had sent a reasoned opinion to Malta.
Malta now has two months to respond and take the necessary action, failing which the Commission may decide to refer the matter to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Brussels called on Malta to conduct scientific studies on its protected marine habitats located more than 25 nautical miles offshore.
This, the Commission said, should lead the government to identify sites of so-called ‘Community importance’ to be included in the EU’s Natura 2000 network.
Composed mainly of rare breeding sites, the Natura 2000 network is a collection of protected areas across the EU.
The Commission called on Malta to meet its obligations under the EU Habitats Directive to establish and manage “a comprehensive and coherent Natura 2000 network”.
This, he said, is essential to protect biodiversity across the EU.
Brussels also cited the new European Green Deal and the European Biodiversity Strategy 2030, both of which underline the importance for the EU to halt biodiversity loss.
This, he said, should be done by preserving natural sites and restoring damaged ecosystems to good ecological condition.
Last year, the environmental watchdog announced it was developing a conservation plan to protect caves and reefs around the coast.
It is understood that there are around 100 caves that are worth protecting.
Considering its size, Malta is already the largest contributor to the network of marine protected areas in Europe.
In 2017, the government launched a project to search for possible marine sites worthy of protection.
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