This paper examines a 3-yr EU LIFE-funded project for the management of two especially protected areas on the Maltese coast. Project partners are the Euro-Mediterranean Centre on Insular Coastal Dynamics (ICoD), the Gaia Foundation and the Ministry for the Environment of Malta. Project sites are the Ghajn Tuffieha area on the northwest coast of Malta, and the Ramla Bay area on the island of Gozo. While both sites are in a relatively pristine state and comprise a number of features of ecological and scientific importance, they are also prime recreational areas, hosting thousands of visitors especially during the summer months. The challenge is to manage these sites in a sustainable manner in order to protect their unique ecology while simultaneously controlling and managing the human activities taking place there. The following sequence of activities is being implemented at both sites: surveys of the resources present (biodiversity, habitats, geological and hydrological features, and archaeological heritage), implementation of first intervention measures, and the drawing up and implementation of site-specific management plans, including rehabilitation and protection of biodiversity and habitats, regulations for site use, and awareness raising and educational measures. The management structure of this project supports the concept of decentralization of management of protected areas, through the granting of responsibility for the direct management of these sites to a non-governmental organization, under joint government/EU funding. This paper thus presents the project as a model for similar initiatives for the management of protected sites in the Mediterranean.

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