The Environment Ministry has insisted that the Planning Authority’s decision to increase fish farmers’ tuna cages does “not in any way undermine or prejudice the environmental obligations of the Fish Farms operators to maintain and control any slime originating from their operations”.
The PA’s decision is questionable, especially given the issues surrounding sea slime and serious allegations involving Maltese fish farm operators and departmental heads in the international illegal tuna trade.
Last month, the Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries Clint Camilleri also increased Malta’s national tuna-catch quota by 34,000 kilos (34 tonnes).
Beyond the increase, the relocation of pens 5 kilometres away from the Qawra shore was also approved. The permit is valid for five years and was subject to a planning gain of just €60,000.
“Following the issues of sea slime at the beginning of last summer, the Ministry through its regulators(DFA and ERA) had in particular cases ordered to the operators to stop the feeding process until sea slime was cleared.
“Most of the sea slime occurred last year was in fact due to lack of installation of booms around the pens. By the end of last season all farms had their booms in place, and sea slime was significantly reduced. Apart from this, actions were taken so that the aquaculture zone was shifted further out 2 years ago. Also, Fish Farm operators have to employ skimmer operations in order to remove the slime immediately,” an Environment Ministry spokesperson told Lovin Malta.
Insisting that people should distinguish between the permit’s approval and regulatory concerns, the spokesperson said:
“Currently irrespective of this permit approval, controls are being beefed up as part of a restructuring process currently underway within the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
“As stated publicly the Department is currently in overdrive to strengthen the controls and procedures adopted throughout the past years. Over and above the Ministry has appointed an operations oversight committee headed by former deputy permanent representative Neil Kerr who is currently analysing various action plans and improvements to be implemented as of coming season.”