Maltese freshwater crabs now close to becoming extinct

University of Malta present red list fiche for Maltese Freshwater crab assigning it the conservation status of Critically Endangered

The Maltese Freshwater crab. Photo: Adriana Vella
The Maltese Freshwater crab. Photo: Adriana Vella

A research team led by Prof. Adriana Vella from the University of Malta has supplied the Environment and Resources Authority with a Red List Fiche assigning the Maltese Freshwater crab the conservation status of Critically Endangered. 

This means that this species is very close to becoming extinct in the Maltese islands unless strict protection and management does not urgently take place.

The conservation biologists cautioned against quick restoration or reintroduction programmes that do not take into consideration the fragility of Maltese freshwater habitats and the critical condition of the fragmented populations.

In the Maltese islands, many species are fast declining in numbers: the Freshwater crab was the subject of a detailed field and genetic study to find out the current conservation status of this species. Jointly supported by ERA and the University of Malta, the research assessed for the first time the full detailed population status and structure using molecular genetics as well.

“Each population varies in its genetic diversity with some already showing very limited diversity which make them prone to loss of resilience in the face of environmental changes, diseases, climate change and increasing disturbance,” Prof. Vella said.

“The genetic identity and diversity of each of the small populations left needs to be consider before planning any movements and captive breeding programmes to plan for the most effective results. More can and needs to be done to safeguard this and many more species on land and at sea to reduce the number of endangered species nationally.”