I have written several articles here and elsewhere about the Maltese freshwater crab.
In my writings I always emphasised that this is an endangered species and needs to be protected if it is not to become extinct. Extinction of this species would mean that this species would be lost forever, as the race found in Malta is not found outside the Maltese islands.
The fresh water crab was first mentioned way back in 1647. In 1990 it was described as an endemic subspecies and renamed as Potamon fluviatile lanfrancoi.
It lives in areas with a permanent supply of fresh water and as this habitat is limited to a few localities it is a very rare species. In the past it used to occur in a number of areas from where it has become extinct because its habitat has been lost. It used to be found at Marsa but disappeared from the area in the 1850s when the marshes were drained. Another population, which was used to be found at Binġemma probably, went the same way and the few populations that are left here and there are in decline and could very well disappear as well.
The freshwater crab has been legally protected since 1993. Under present legislation it is listed in Schedules III (Animal and plant species of national interest whose conservation requires the designation of special areas of conservation) and VI (Animal and plant species of national interest in need of strict protection) of the Flora, Fauna and Natural Habitats Protection Regulations.
One of the last, and probably largest populations of fresh water crab is found at Baħrija where they live in tunnels along the permanent watercourse that passes through the valley. The valley and the surrounding countryside as is to be expected is very rich in biodiversity. I often visit the area and always manage to find interesting species to photograph and observe. Unfortunately the area is now threatened because of the building of a villa within metres of the watercourse in which the freshwater crab lives. The permit for the building of this villa should never have been issued and should be revoked. We have lost enough habitats and species and nobody should not allow such an important area to be egoistically destroyed.
This artcle was published in The Times on 24 June 2009.