The Cirkewwa Voluntary Marine Reserve.
For those peolple that do not dive Cirkewwa is a unique environmnet reflecting ALL Mediterranean marine environments.
In view of this I felt that it deserves to be protected, and that this protection needs to come from us, divers, snorklers, fishermen, anglers, as we the users are aware of the social and cultural importance of the sea to us.
So I started with the diving community getting the support and agreement on a code of conduct for divers copied here
CIRKEWWA OFFERS A RICH AND DIVERSE RANGE OF MARINE LIFE, YOUR CO-OPERATION IN PROTECTING THIS AREA FOR FUTURE ENJOYMENT WOULD BE EXTREMELY VALUABLE.PLEASE ADOPT RESPONSIBLE DIVE PRACTICES TO AVOID DAMAGING MARINE LIFE BY:
Ensuring that you are in good control of your buoyancy at all times, and avoid using rocks as ballast as they are living reefs
Avoid excessive finning in close proximity to the reef as it can dislodge and damage life.
Keep your equipment secured and streamlinedPLEASE ADOPT A RESPECTFUL AND PASSIVE APPROACH TO MARINE LIFE:
Do not harass flora or fauna
Do not collect souvenirs (dead or alive)
Whenever possible avoid swimming under overhangs as bubbles can damage delicate coral growth, including star corals (Astroides calycularis) which are a protected species.
Avoid entering areas of wrecks where squid eggs hang as bad buoyancy or bubbles can dislodge these
Do not remove octopus from their dens as they may be protecting eggs
When swimming over sand take care to not stir up the environment as sand are living habitats
Dive boats should try to not anchor too close to wrecks as they may damage unique sea grass beds, or on Posidonia Meadows as they are a keystone species in housing ecosystems and are also a protected species.
Do not damage urchins, as the rock sea urchin and the Needle-Spined Urchin (Cetrostephanus longispinus) are protected species
Do not spearfish, especially with aqua lung as it is illegal
Do not leave any litter in the sea or surrounding area, please use bins provided
We will also be asking MEPA, the TRANSPORT AUTHORITY, FISHERIES to do their part and ensure that the police presence at the Cirkewwa terminal, roster in regular foot patrols as a deterrent to illegal fishing.
On the 14Th of December, we launched the CIRKEWWA VOLUNTARY MARINE RESERVE (VMR). We did this during the Annual General Meeting of the FEDERATION OF UNDERWATER ACTIVITIES (FUA).
To date we have the support of ATLAM, FUA, AMPHEPIANS CASC, PDSA, and Nature Trust.
We have also held discussions with the MFA.What is a Voluntary Marine Reserve?
A VMR is a marine reserve in which users agree to abide by a code of conduct allowing all users to get the best out of the area with an eye to its preservation for future users. It is a gentlemen’s agreement in which everybody agrees to abide to rules on a voluntary basis.
We have started an outreach to the other interested parties using the site.Who are the interested parties?
Anybody that uses the surface, shoreline and sea bottom at Cirkewwa. Divers, Anglers, Fishermen, boat users, dive boats. There are also parties that have an indirect interest in the area, like NGOs, hotels and restaurants, both of which offer services to the diving tourists, local councils.What are we asking?
We are hoping to have talks with representatives of the various groups and clubs in order to come up with tailor made educative CODES OF PRACTICES, e.g. catch and release, daily quantity limits, releasing females of species, sizes and sesonal limits, general observation of the laws already in place and a system allowing users to report infringements, like the laying of paritii withing the 200M demarcation line, spearfishing with aqualungs, appnea spearfishing.
Other suggestion would be using non entanglement lines and sinkers to be used.
In order to educate users, we will be placing educative placards which are being sponsored by Maltaqua Diving Centre.
We are also looking for sponsorship to print some 5000 educative A4 4×4 full color gloss coated pamphlets. We need around Euros 360 excluding 18% VAT. So if you know anybody that may be interested please let me know at email@example.com
I am not sure but there may be some tax benefits for companies in this.
The placards and pamphlets will be educating divers, amongst other things, about the many protected species that are at Cirkewwa and that may need a few seconds thoughts to protect from careless and unintentional damage.
Declaring Cirkewwa a VOLUNTARY MARINE RESERVE is no small manner for if this works then we would have proved that a grass root movement can go farther and maybe be more affective than government enforcement as it is something voluntary and not laws that are FORCED on us without consideration to our individual needs
However none of this is possible unless we all, collectively do our share unselfishly. As divers, maybe more than others, and as much as fishermen, we have an interest in promoting and protecting Cirkewwa, so before swimming below an overhang, think of the damage our bubbles can do. Before picking up a souvenir or put a rock in our BCD to help with our buoyancy, think of what life we may be destroying. Before breaking a sea urchin think… and before doing so remember that the sea urchin is also protected and that you may be breaking the law.
Finally I would love to meet and discuss with the various group representatives, on how we can collectively cooperate as well as participate in the mangement of the site by being on the committee we are in the process of setting up.
I can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
or on my mobile 99602455.