Forget Everything You Know About The Maltese Awrat

Fish soup will never be the same again

Sea Bream

There's an old wives tale in Malta stating that it's easy to recognise Maltese sea bream (awrat) since they are so easily recognisable and very different from wild and foreign stock.

However, new research indicates that this might not exactly be the case any more.

"I understand that when you gut the fish you will notice the difference because a captive fish is full of concentrates while a wild fish is not (unless it lives near a fish farm). However we never noticed a clear cut line between what was known as a ‘Maltese sea bream' and the others," says Arnold Sciberras, a researcher. 

Maltese Sea Bream

"Maltese" sea bream

He said that the Gilt-Head sea bream is one of the most popular captive-bred species in Malta's aquaculture industry, and is a popular fish for consumption in Malta.

Knowing this, he wanted to have a look at wild and captive sea bream himself to really see if you could easily tell the difference.

"Wild stocks are extremely rare locally due to overfishing and other reasons but as researchers it was best to take the bull by the horns (or in this case the fish by the fins)," he said.

"After a lot of painstaking communication with countless people in the sector we finally arrived to bust the myth," he said. "From an appearance point of view there is some differences most likely due to inbreeding but  genetically they are identical to the rest of the wild and foreign  Mediterranean population," he said.

"So to cut the story short, we do not have a Maltese sea bream."

The research has been ongoing since 2015, with Arnold leading the project alongside Jeffrey Sciberras. 

Collection and morphological studies were carried out by Arnold Sciberras and Professor Alan Deidun whilst genetic comparison was carried out by Dr Francesco Tiralungo and his colleagues. This project was carried out as a collaboration between Animal kingdom LTD, San Lucjan aquaculture centre, the University of Malta and the University of Catania. 

Typical Sea Bream

Typical sea bream

Tag someone who swears they can recognise a Maltese sea!

READ NEXT: Wild Squirrels Are Now Officially A Thing In Malta

Written By

Johnathan Cilia

Johnathan is interested in the weird, dark, and wonderful contradictions our late-capitalist society forces upon us. He also likes music and food.