Comino: beyond sun-block and deckchairs


During the past weeks, the island of Comino has been in the news. The controversy surrounding the deckchair/umbrella hawkers free-for-all at the Blue Lagoon focused on overcharging, breaching of permit conditions and the resulting lack of space for the public making use of public facilities at the beach.

Fines were imposed by the Malta Tourism Authority. This is fine (pun intended) in the short term. However, we need to plan for the long term, keeping in mind  that the island of Comino, is first and foremost a Natura 2000 site and a touristic destination second. Sites forming part of the Natura 2000 network are designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA) according to the Habitats and Birds Directives of the European Union, where habitats and species are listed. The Directives are designated to provide protection to the most vulnerable of the species listed.

It has been stated that every day, at the peak of the summer season, as many as 5,000 visitors land on Comino, most of whom remain in the Blue Lagoon and its environs .

The Natura 2000 Management Plan for Comino published recently, considers that tourism at the Blue Lagoon needs to be controlled efficiently in order to ensure that it is “in harmony with the site’s conservation needs”. One of the measures which the Comino Management Plan establishes as an operational objective is “to plan and implement a tourism carrying capacity assessment of the Blue Lagoon”.

The Management Plan believes that the tourism carrying capacity assessment should be carried out within the first year of the plan’s implementation, which means pretty soon! The issue is of fundamental importance in ensuring that the activity permitted on the island of Comino is compatible with its ecological requirements.

It is not known whether this carrying capacity assessment has been carried out yet. If not it should be done at the earliest.

This is not the first time that Maltese authorities have been asked to consider a proposal to study the possibility of limiting access to a specific site for protection purposes. Around 12 years ago, after rehabilitation work carried out at the Hypogeum in Ħal-Salfieni was concluded, it was decided that there was an urgent need to control its microclimate in order to better protect this archeological jewel so a maximum limit of 80 visitors per day was established.

Various other countries place limits on tourism in order to better control its environmental impacts. There are various examples, but permit me to point to the Brazilian archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, 545 kilometres off the coastal city of Recife. The archipelago is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the number of visitors is restricted in order  to adequately protect its environmental patrimony. The environmental protection rules of the Brazilian archipelago of Fernando de Noronha go into such detail as to even forbid the use of sunprotection lotions/creams or even the use of footwear on the beach, as well as curtailing various other activities incompatible with the archipelago’s ecological characteristics!

It is a path we should consider following for Comino, if we are serious about protecting the little that we still have.

It is welcome news earlier this week as three of Malta’s environmental NGOs, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Friends of the Earth and Nature Trust, have endorsed the proposal for carrying out the capacity assessment of the Blue Lagoon at Comino. Comino deserves our protection. Implementing the Natura 2000 Management Plan for Comino would be a suitable first step.

And the sooner, the better.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 11 September 2016

The abrogative referendum made simple : (4) When can I sign?

hunting in Malta 04

(4)   When can I sign?

Collection of signatures for calling the referendum has not yet begun.

So far it is only a call for the formation of the Coalition to Abolish Spring Hunting that has been made.  To date two eNGOs, namely Ramblers and Friends of the Earth, have decided to join the Coalition. As soon as other eNGOs take their decisions the process of signature collection will be set in motion.

From my contacts it is clear that eNGOs are taking the matter seriously and will be taking decisions shortly.

An announcement will be made as to when the collection of signatures will commence.  But one thing is certain, the abrogative referendum to abolish spring hunting is on.

Coalition against Spring Hunting : the first steps

hunting 02.2013

Where do I sign to ensure that a referendum in favour of abolishing spring hunting is held?

Collection of signatures has not yet started. It will only start when the coalition is in place.

AD has invited all pro-nature organisations to launch a broad Coalition to Abolish Spring Hunting. Various NGOs got in touch.

Ramblers and Friends of the Earth have already declared publicly that they support the initiative . Other organisations have signified their intention to join but they have yet to formalise their decision through their Committee.

On behalf of AD I have held various meetings with other eNGOs  which are still considering whether to participate in the Coalition. It is perfectly reasonable to await these eNGOs in order that they can decide, in full autonomy. Obviously at some point a decision will be taken to move forward with the eNGOs who are on board.

Then, the next steps will be announced.

L-injam tal-għamara tiegħek minn fejn ġie ?



Mhux biss l-għamara, iżda l-bibien ukoll !


F’Marzu li għadda l-Friends of the Earth (FoE) ippreżentaw rapport lil Stavros Dimas, Kummissarju tal-EU dwar l-Ambjent, intitolat Building On Forest Destruction. Timber use in EU-financed building projects.


F’dan ir-rapport il-FoE jgħidu li nofs l-injam użat fl-Unjoni Ewropea ġej minn żoni fejn il-foresti huma mhedda u fejn is-siġar jinqatgħu b’mod illegali.


Il-qtugħ tas-siġar bl-addoċċ (illegal logging) qiegħed jikkontribwixxi għall-bdil fil-klima. Dan billi qiegħed inaqqas dawk li nsejħulhom carbon sinks. Għax is-siġar iservu, fost affarijiet oħra biex isaffu l-arja mill-carbon dioxide u minflok jipproduċu l-ossignu. B’dan il-mod jonqos mill-arja gass li jikkontribwixxi għaż-żieda fit-temperatura.


Issa l-injam għandna bżonnu. Imma nistgħu nagħmlu użu minnu b’mod responsabbli, b’mod sostenibbli. Dan isir billi jiġi assigurat li għal kull siġra li tinqata’ titħawwel oħra. Issa l-injam li jinqata’ minn foresti fejn hemm użu sostenibbli tas-siġar huwa ċċertifikat minn organizzazzjoinijiet imwaqqfa apposta bħall-Forest Stewardship Council. Iċ-ċertifikazzjoni li jagħtu dawn ifisser illi min qata’ s-siġra li minnu sar dak l-injam aġixxa b’mod responsabbli, u assigura użu sostenibbli tar-riżorsi tal-foresta.


Issa Dimas meta kien ippreżentat b’dan ir-rapport tal-FoE qal li l-EU ser tibda proċess dwar Direttiva fuq l-użu sostenibbli tal-injam. Għax l-EU trid tagħti s-sehem tagħha fil-ġlieda kontra l-bdil tal-klima u kontra l-użu abbużiv tar-riżorsi tal-foresti madwar id-dinja. Meta tidħol fis-seħħ din id-Direttiva, injam jew inkella prodotti tal-injam bla ċertifikazzjoni dwar is-sostenibilita tagħhom ma jkunux jistgħu jinbiegħu facilment.


L-ambjent inħarsuh bil-fatti.

Lejn tmiem Mejju 2008 suppost li l-EU tibda l-proċess li jwassal lejn din id-Direttiva ġdida.