The first-ever European Congress for Conservation Biology, recently held in Hungary, was one of the largest-ever gatherings of conservation biologists. The congress had over 1,000 registrations, with world-leading plenary speakers, over 850 abstracts submitted, 17 symposia and a good range of workshops and training session.

The congress was organised jointly by the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB), an international professional organisation with more than 11,000 members and the Hungarian Natural History Museum. At this first European assembly of conservation biology experts, scientists and practitioners from 59 countries presented their results in the form of lectures and posters.

Maltese conservation biologist Adriana Vella was invited to give a lecture on her blue fin tuna research, started in 1998 with seed money made available by the University of Malta to purchase necessary equipment for the genetic analyses and to set up the first conservation genetics laboratory in the University.

Research assistance, through the graduate trainee programme, was provided by Noel Vella, (Ph.D student). The conservation genetics and biology laboratory and research group has allowed various students to gain expertise in different molecular genetics techniques applied to wildlife population genetics assessment and is also enrolling both local and foreign Ph.D. students, to specialise in this area.

Dr Vella's blue fin tuna project was also possible with the help of some local tuna fishermen, who appreciated the effort and scope of this research to better understand and manage this species' exploitation in the Mediterranean. Locally the fishing efforts for this species had increased drastically while annual landings are decreasing, with a record low last June. The original and interesting genetics results of this thorough Maltese research project are being prepared for publication while new aspects of this project are being developed.

Through Dr Vella's participation, the Maltese Islands were represented in this first European Congress for Conservation Biology. The congress theme, "Diversity for Europe", reflects both the biological and cultural diversity of our continent, as well as the diversity of approaches to conservation. It had the specific intent to address and help mitigate the problems of linking science, policy and practice, particularly in view of the global 2010 environment and sustainability target to significantly reduce the loss of biodiversity.

The need to build a strong and effective conservation community in Europe could not be more urgent. Europe faces a period of rapid political and environmental change. To meet these challenges and to map out a sustainable path for biodiversity, conservation biologists need to establish a strong presence at a European scale.

The European Section of the Society for Conservation Biology is determined to promote the development and use of science for the conservation of European species and ecosystems, and to make sure that conservation policy is firmly underpinned by the best available scientific evidence.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us