A research assessment on the status of dolphins and whales in Maltese waters has recently been published in Nature journal’s Scientific Reports. The research was conducted by the University of Malta’s Conservation Biology Research Group (CBRG-UM) in collaboration with the Biological Research Conservation Foundation (Bicref).

The publication of this research aims to expand scientific investigations across the whole of the Mediterranean and highlight areas where cetacean knowledge gaps still need to be filled in collaboration with other foreign researchers from other universities and NGOs, paving the way to promoting sustained and effective investigative efforts for these vulnerable and elusive species.

In 2015, Bicref and the CBRG-UM organised an international conference on this subject, attracting to Malta around 400 scientists from all over the world, leading to an exchange of research results and the best way forward to achieve effective protection of these marine mammals in the Mediterranean.

Malta has been active researching dolphins and whales – collectively referred to as cetaceans – since 1998 when the first scientific field research results were presented at the first World Cetacean Conference in Monaco following field survey work by conservation biologist Adriana Vella.

This Maltese cetacean project, one of the few in the Mediterranean that has been running year-round for over 20 years, is led and sustained by Dr Vella.

This long-term conservation research work is the result of ongoing scientific marine and aerial surveys as well as contributions from the Armed Forces of Malta, the Maritime Transport Authority, fishermen and yachtspeople, who have all contributed additional information in their own ways. Indeed, as more members of the public and visitors to Malta become aware of the presence of dolphins and even whales in local waters, such sea-user citizen science has been encouraged.

The CBRG-UM and Bicref also conduct research on other important aspects of marine conservation, including sustainable fisheries, alien species, biodiversity impoverishment and habitat degradation assessments. Various high-tech methodologies are used in these studies, which are also used in the training of university research students, interns and future nature conservation practitioners.

To contact Dr Vella, e-mail adriana. vella@um.edu.mt or bicref@gmail.com.

Nature’s Scientific Reports publication may be accessed at the link below.


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