Malta’s blue waters attract many a tourist over the summer, but our waters are increasingly attracting some unwanted visitors. Just like online adverts are increasingly invading your internet space, alien species of fish are slowly creeping their way into our near-pristine waters, with about 100 alien species now present in Maltese seas.
While we may be able to house foreigners on land, the water is a different matter, and alien species can really mess up an ecosystem, as can be seen from any of the marine ecosystems found near the Suez Canal.
Half the fish at the fish markets in Lebanon, for example, are alien species. Could you imagine going to the Marsaxlokk fish markets and finding scores of lionfish, pufferfish, and toadfish on display?
What’s worse is that about 10% of all alien fish are considered as invasive species. These are the fish that bully their way into habitats, displace or cause the death of local fish, and can have huge socio-economic costs on a society.
He explained that alien species can enter the Mediterranean, and eventually Maltese waters, through various methods, such as being brought in with a ship, or part of the aquarium industry, or even the aquaculture industry.
‘Consumption of fish is one of the best ways of controlling them’
Prof. Alan Deidun
Once these species are brought to these waters, climate change helps warm the waters and helps them survive here across the winters.
When Lovin Malta asked what can be done about it, his answer was simple. “We have hindsight, and that hindsight is in the Suez Canal. It’s example provides us with a crystal ball, because so many of the species are already there.”
Considering the dire state of the Suez Canal and surrounding countries, the crystal ball is pretty clear, so Prof. Deidun has some simple things we can do to help save Malta’s waters.
What Can We Actually Do?
Use citizen’s science – scientist’s can’t do all the work on their own, so people should keep a camera handy in case they come across an alien species.
Exercise caution when eating fish – make sure you know what species it is.
And, most importantly – consume the fish. “Consumption of fish is one of the best way of controlling them,” points out Prof. Deidun.