Updated at 5.15pm with ministry reassurance

The planned firing of the giant fireball known as 'The Shell of Shells' at Żurrieq on Friday will impact Natura 2000 sites, particularly Filfla, BirdLife Malta warned on Thursday.

"Seabirds inhabiting Filfla which are currently during their nesting periods (namely Scopoli’s Shearwater and the Mediterranean Storm-petrel) are very sensitive to both light and noise pollution, to the point that even fireworks or light along the south-west coast of Malta already have an effect on this seabird haven," the NGO said. 

It said that despite its repeated calls for the Environment and Resources Authority, to publicise the appropriate assessment to show the impact this activity would have on protected areas at sea and the seabird colonies of Filfla, to date ERA had failed to do so and appeared to be permitting this activity. 

It therefore called on Environment Minister José Herrera and for ERA to publicise the impact assessment.

However, the ministry said in a statement in the afternoon that it had been reassured by the ERA that all environmental aspects had been duly considered and assessed and that no further intervention by the minister was needed.

The ministry said it had been informed that the required Appropriate Assessment Report concluded that there would be no significant impact on the natural environment of the area, in particular the fauna.

The barge will be placed 3.6km from Filfla, 3.3km from Żurrieq on the eastern side and 3.5km from Għar Lapsi on the western side, whereas the report predicted that any impact would be limited to within a 500m blast radius from the point of lift-off.

A number of conditions and mitigation measures were imposed by ERA, both during the event and after. All preparatory work and dismantling shall take place between sunrise and sunset, use of flash powder is prohibited and only one firework is to be let off. ERA also stipulated that a sea clean-up has to be carried out within a radius of 500m of the barge.

The ministry said that a copy of the report, which was distributed to BirdLife Malta, clearly highlights that “the proposed firework event is expected to generate insignificant impacts on the seabird colonies through the dispersion of firework particulate debris, chemical dispersion into the air and sea, light and sound pollution".

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