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Important Natural Areas

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Important natural areas are those terrestrial and marine areas which are important in view of the habitats and species present within. The Maltese Islands suppost a variety of important and unique habitats and species, a number of which are in fact protected through legislation. In turn, it is also important to protect areas where such biodiversity is found. In view of this, Malta has designated various protected areas under both national and international legal instruments.

Legal instruments under which protected areas have been designated include:

  • national legislation
    • mostly include Government Notices and Legal Notices issued under the auspices of the Development Planning Act (DPA) and the Environment Protection Act (EPA)
  • multilateral agreements
    • including Bern Convention, EC Birds Directive, EC Habitats Directive, Ramsar Convention, Protocol concerning Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean (SPA & Biodiversity Protool)

The following table lists the major designations of protected areas in Malta:


Legal Instrument

Areas of Ecological Importance & Sites of Scientific Importance 

national DPA

Bird Sanctuaries

national EPA 

Nature Reserves

national EPA

Special Areas of Conservation
(national importance)

national DPA & EPA

Special Areas of Conservation
(international importance)

national DPA & EPA

form part of the Natura 2000 Network under the EC Habitats Directive

Special Protection Areas

national DPA & EPA 

form part of the Natura 2000 Network under the EC Birds Directive

Ramsar Sites

Ramsar Convention

Specially Protected Areas

SPA & Biodiversity Protocol

As at end of 2008, the Maltese Islands had over 20% of its land area protected, at least under one of the above-listed designations. Work is being considered to especially enhance the network of marine protected areas, 2 having been designated to date - 1 in 2005 and 1 in 2007. 

A complete list of the important natural areas afforded protection, specifically under national legislation, in view of the habitats and/or species present, is available through the Common Database on Designated Areas (CDDA)

The management of protected areas is of utmost importance. MEPA has enhanced capacity-building in this respect in later years, with assessment, management and enforcement being constantly considered. Indeed, MEPA is continuously involved in projects aimed at the establishment of protected areas, as well as the drafting and implementation of management plans. A project has been proposed for funding (EAFRD 2007-2013) under the Rural Development Programme for Malta, with the aim of developing management plans for the Natura 2000 sites designated to date.

Through the years, MEPA has received technical support related to protected areas, especially through participation in externally funded projects. Amongst these were:


Other sections related to Important Natural Areas
Protected Areas - National
Protected Areas - International
Natura 2000
Site Management 

Links for further information
Projects (related to biodiversity / nature protection)
State of the Environment Reports (or Indicators)
Common Database on Designated Areas (CDDA)

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