Sicily and Malta are subject to intense urbanisation pressure, especially in coastal and marine areas, as well as inappropriate and insufficient resources allocated for the management of Natura 2000 sites. Implementation of management measures within Natura 2000 sites is inadequate, such that the same sites are poorly managed, with the consequence that the enjoyment of the same sites is not properly regulated, leading to considerable environmental impacts. Yet another common feature of Sicilian and Maltese Natura 2000 sites is the low degree of appreciation, due to a low degree of awareness by the general public of the assets held by the same sites, with only a limited number of Natura 2000 site users / visitors being fully cognisant of such assets. CORALLO aims to address such challenges through i) joint development (i.e. each deliverable will be simultaneously implemented in Malta and in Sicily), ii) joint implementation, through the identification of respective tasks and roles and through iii) joint funding (project budget is roughly equally divided between Maltese and Sicilian partners, with adequate funds being allocated to each project partner).
CORALLO’s main objective is the fostering of a greater degree of awareness amongst Natura 2000 sites users and visitors about the biodiversity assets held within these same sites. CORALLO aims to unlock the untapped potential of a number of Natura 2000 sites in Malta and Sicily by promoting the largely-unknown and unique living and landscape assets of each site and their responsible enjoyment. The project’s three specific objectives (I. identification of needs and characteristics of Natura 2000 sites, II. promotion of ecosystem services, and III. awareness-generation) tangibly and coherently show how this main objective can be achieved.
The composition of the CORALLO consortium is a complementary one as it incorporates different typologies of entities that are all directly or indirectly linked with Maltese and Sicilian Natura 2000 site management aspects, thus increasing the credibility and feasibility of the project in terms of implementation success. The consortium includes partners with a regulatory role (ERA, ARPA), a scientific and educational role (University of Malta, University of Palermo), a site management role (Heritage Malta, Plemmirio MPA) and a dissemination role (CoRiSSIA), with each partner holding consolidated expertise within each listed aspect.
The University of Malta, specifically the Department of Geosciences, through its resident academic Prof. Alan Deidun, a marine biologist by training, holds extensive experience in the conduction of dissemination and awareness-generation activities related to the sea given that Prof. Deidun is Malta’s first-ever Ocean Ambassador as of July 2018. The University of Malta is coordinating the CORALLO project, thus playing a seminal role in the coordination of the project. The University of Malta will be mainly responsible for formulating the thematic content of such awareness-generating facilities and in overseeing the development, delivery and installation of the same facilities within the identified Natura 2000 sites. The University of Malta will also liaise with commissioned experts in optimising and fine-tuning the design and content of the edutainment tools and resources being considered for the same sites, such as the website, mobile and non-mobile awareness-generating facilities, so as to capitalise on the extensive expertise it accumulated through previous projects on such aspects.
The Environment and Resources Authority (ERA), set up in 2016 after the demerger of MEPA, operates within the legal framework of the Environment Protection Act. ERA is the competent authority responsible for the overall management of the Natura 2000 sites. ERA is responsible for the designation of Natura 2000 sites and for the maintenance and/or restoration of the scheduled features of the sites at a favourable conservation status. ERA issues guidelines for the management and conservation of the protected sites, establishes the necessary conservation measures and takes appropriate steps to avoid the deterioration of the habitats, or significant disturbance of the species for which the sites were designated. As a partner experienced in environmental Communications, /Education and Public Awareness-raising activities, ERA will lead project communications. Within CORALLO, ERA will be responsible for the activities related to project communication and dissemination, contributing to the development of communication materials such as on citizen engagement, as well as providing technical input with respect to the programme of measures under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
Heritage Malta is the national agency for museums, conservation practice and cultural heritage, created by the Cultural Heritage Act which was enacted in 2002. Heritage Malta seeks to provide its various audiences with an enhanced experience during visits to the various sites and museums. Cultural heritage can act as a catalyst for Malta’s tourism potential and consequently contribute significantly to the economy. Since Heritage Malta curators are familiar with the management of part of a Natura 2000 site, its audiences and its values, the agency will be participating in the conceptual development of the project. In addition, the agency will be housing part of the non-mobile communication materials that will result from the project and will therefore be directly participating in their development and implementation to ensure that these integrate with the existing management, visitor flow and interpretation at the Archaeological Park within the Natura 2000 site. Once the project is completed Heritage Malta will be utilizing the existing management framework that is already in place well beyond the lifetime of the project. The materials generated will also be accessible, through Heritage Malta, to the local councils as well as other local and national organisations that make use of the area for various events and activities.
The Agenzia Regionale per la Protezione dell’Ambiente (ARPA) – Sicilia (Regional Environmental Protection Agency of Sicily in English) is a legal entity under public law, endowed with technical, managerial, administrative and accounting autonomy. It has among its institutional tasks the protection, control and monitoring of the environment, which also includes marine ecosystems, and cooperation with institutions and institutions operating in the field of collective prevention and environmental protection. ARPA Sicilia carries out monitoring activities of territorial and coastal marine waters, and has specialised scientific technical expertise and instrumentation useful for conducting research on the marine environment. ARPA can contribute to the dissemination of knowledge for the sustainable use of the coasts and the sea. As the regional responsible entity/institution for environmental regulation, ARPA Sicilia represents a pivotal partner within the CORALLO Consortium. ARPA Sicilia will be responsible for organising the most onerous dissemination role in Sicily, being responsible for the delivery of project promotional gadgets, brochures, TV slots and even flashcards with the responsible enjoyment codes of conduct being developed within CORALLO. ARPA Sicilia will be responsible for installing the awareness-generating tools and resources, within the targeted visitor centres.
The University of Palermo, specifically the Department of Biological, Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Technologies, has been tasked to conduct SWOT analysis for the targeted Natura 2000 sites and to deliver a vast array of project promotional material, including YouTube clips, gadgets and brochures. The University of Palermo has been entrusted with ensuring the participation, within regular CORALLO project meetings, of the two affiliated Sicilian associate partners (Rosolini Local Council and the Pelagian Islands MPA). The University of Palermo will be responsible for commissioning the development of a diverse array of mobile and non-mobile awareness-generating tools and resources destined for the three targeted Natura 2000 sites in Sicily, as well as to set up underwater CCTV cameras and utilise aerial and underwater drones to hold didactic activities.
The Plemmirio Consortium, formed by the Municipality and the Province of Syracuse, carries out the management activities of the Marine Protected Area of Plemmirio and, more generally, performs functions of assistance and support to the local bodies in the matter of protection of the marine environment and coastal of the provincial coast. The main lines of action, relating to the management of the Marine Protected Area, are oriented towards the conservation of habitats, the dissemination of environmental knowledge with specific attention to the world of education, scientific research, promotion of sustainable development initiatives, and active involvement of sensitive categories for the wider and respectful use of the sea. The Plemmirio MPA will make part of its state-of-the-art visitor centre, located strategically within the historical fort at the tip of the Ortygia peninsula in Syracuse (Sicily) available, such that CORALLO awareness-generating facilities and resources can be housed within it. The Plemmirio Consortium will also purchase innovative audio-visual equipment to be installed within its existing visitor centre facilities. The Plemmirio Consortium will also participate in the final flagship dissemination event to be organised within the European Parliament in Brussels.
The Consorzio di Ricerca per lo Sviluppo di Sistemi Innovativi Agroambientali (CoRiSSIA) is an agro-environmental research consortium equivalent body. Its activities comprise applied research, international EU-funded R&I proposal development in the environmental sciences and agricultural resources, training and dissemination activities with a strong focus on environmental studies and monitoring/management of the Sicilian coastal marine system. CoRiSSIA has a large, modern laboratory equipped for chemical and microbiological analyses, specialising in agro-environmental monitoring. CoRiSSIA has over 16 years’ experience in regional, national and international project collaboration. CoRiSSIA holds important dissemination and awareness-generating roles within CORALLO, being entrusted with the conduction of the stakeholder analysis study for targeted Maltese Natura 2000 sites, as well as the dissemination strategy for Sicilian sites. CoRiSSIA has also been entrusted with the production of a diverse array of promotional gadgets, leaflets and codes of conduct flashcards, with participation within the final flagship event in Brussels within the European Parliament, with the formulation of the implementation plan for the targeted Sicilian sites, and with the commissioning of a resource-packed boat for flagship cross-border training activities.