SOS Hondoq News

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

'Maltese' jellyfish at Ħondoq ir-Rummien

Published on The Sunday Times on Sunday 24th January, 2010.

A day at one of Malta and Gozo's beaches can often be ruined by swarms of jellyfish infesting the sea, making it quite risky for swimmers.

But one foreign resident in Gozo, Judy Metters, has come to see the 'bright' side of this situation, because she has come across examples of what she has described as 'Maltese' jellyfish.

Last November, she decided to go for a swim at Ħondoq ir-Rummien. "I had been there the day before and it was glorious and jellyfish-free. When I started to walk in the sea I quickly noticed a huge amount of 'cauliflower' jellyfish, as they have become locally known, and hundreds of other small pretty ones which I suspected were 'stingers'. I beat a hasty retreat. Of course I hadn't noticed that the wind had turned easterly and therefore it had brought hundreds of jellyfish to the shore this side of Gozo."

Ms Metters did not want to leave, and so began to look closer at the jellyfish from the rocks. She noticed one of the 'cauliflower' jellyfish had been broken up, probably by the boats, and it appeared that the smaller ones were feeding off the broken parts of the other.

Being a keen photographer she went to fetch her camera and began to photograph the activity under the water. She soon noticed markings on the top of the small jellyfish which seemed to be in the shape of a Maltese cross.

Ms Metters thought it would be interesting to share her experience with readers of The Sunday Times. She also took interesting images of the 'cauliflower' jellyfish which fascinated fishermen and locals as swarms of them glided along the saltpans in Gozo and found their way round to Ħondoq ir-Rummien.

"There were various stories as to why and where they had come from, some saying they were here to spawn and die, others saying they had never seen them before on these shores. Perhaps somebody could tell us more, as their huge size and shape was unique but they went as soon as they came," Ms Metters said.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Putting heritage on the agenda

Published on the Times of Malta on Tuesday 12th January, 2010 by Petra Bianchi.

Growing numbers of people are conscious of the attractions of the heritage that surrounds us and the positive value it adds to our living environment. This was evident recently in the spontaneous public outcry against the proposed digging up of picturesque old Balluta Square to create a new car park. There are many other examples.

Unfortunately, a number of our prime heritage sites are utterly neglected. It is an unbelievable shame that some of our most important historic monuments are derelict, such as Fort St Angelo and Fort St Elmo.

The government has its hands full and clearly does not cope with the quantity of sites under its care. Mepa's heritage section and the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage work hard, but both are badly under-staffed and their work could be better coordinated. The cultural heritage committee, which advises the Mepa board, carries out disappointingly few site visits.

Heritage Malta is doing a good job but has huge responsibilities to carry out with its funds. The current structures and resources are not adequate and heritage is regrettably not a focus of the ongoing reform of Mepa.

In spite of this, awareness has grown steadily. In the past, there were many more examples of historic sites used for inappropriate activities, such as animal husbandry and damaging entertainment or storage facilities. This is now less prevalent, although not eradicated.

The restoration of Fort St Angelo is finally receiving some attention through work by Heritage Malta and a government application for EU funds. There have been plenty of other good initiatives over recent years, such as the Maritime museum, the Vittoriosa and Valletta waterfronts, the refurbishment of the Roman Villa, new projects in Valletta, such as St George's Square and Victoria Gate, Villa Francia, Palazzo Falson and the ongoing restoration of the Mdina bastions, to name but a few. A conspicuous mistake is the over-sized visitor centre at Ħaġar Qim.

From a different angle, our built and natural heritage has been pushed up on the agenda by Parliamentary Secretary Jason Azzopardi, with his drive to salvage dilapidated public land and buildings, by evicting squatters and reclaiming stretches of coastline.

Dr Azzopardi has also drafted and pushed through recent amendments to legislation in order to enable the government to acquire for public purpose sites that are of historical or cultural significance and which have fallen into disrepair. Such sites would then be restored and opened to the public.

The amendments also link heritage to tourism, recognising the economic value heritage adds to the country. Heritage and tourism have long been allies and, in the previous legislature, an attempt was made to combine the two sectors in one ministry. Cultural heritage attracts visitors.

The interdependence of tourism and conservation is an everyday facet of heritage management, however, it is not enough for heritage to serve tourism, it must also work the other way round. Tourism plans must also take heritage concerns into account.

It is pointless conserving our heritage to attract visitors when new tourism developments might simultaneously threaten to ruin it and this includes our natural heritage, such as the landscape around Ħondoq ir-Rummien bay, which is endangered by plans for a major project there.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010


Published on by Alex Tyyrrel on Saturday, 16 January, 2010.

This week saw the Gozo Minister Giovanna Debono going around schools handing out calendars to the children. The idea behind this according to the Ministry was to promote the eco-Gozo vision.

With all due respect to Giovanna Debono, the Gozo Ministry and the Maltese Government as a whole I think this eco-Gozo vision is being approached in the totally wrong way. Children do not learn about environmental awareness by being given a little calendar. Surely the best way to teach children about the ‘Government’s vision on Gozo’ is to actually be seen to do be doing something tangible in support of that vision.

What message does it send to children when they see members of the Government damaging the very environment they say they care so much about for no other reason than personal gain? What message do these children get when they go on a school trip to Dwejra and see the beautiful view from the top of the hill spoiled by an ugly rusted concrete shell?

In what way does it enhance the eco-Gozo vision when children learn that the very people handing them little calendars are considering the destruction of Hondoq Bay by the construction of a marina? Does it give these children hope in the future when they see NGO’s being attacked in the press by Government members and supporters for committing the sin of trying to protect the environment and heritage of Malta for future generations?

Perhaps Giovanna Debono should point out to the children that in Nadur where she lives her Government have supported the construction of a cemetery on top of an aquifer which feeds the land below used by farmers to grow their citrus crops. It would be interesting to hear the Minister explain to the children how liquids from decomposing bodies thanks to her Government’s ‘Eco Gozo’ concept will forever taint the crops in this area!

Talking the talk is something that all politicians are good at, however they usually fall well short of expectations when it comes to walking the walk.

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