A call for the setting up of new offshore fish farms to be established is set to be made, Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries, Aquaculture and Animal Rights Alicia Bugeja Said stated on Thursday.
This comes as she announced that a new entity called Aquatic Resources Malta, will be set up. This entity will start investing in new research and innovation projects, with the aim of boosting the local fisheries and aquaculture sectors.
She stressed that this entity will help Government “broaden its horizons” on what is happening in Malta’s seas, both from an ecological and socio-economic perspective.
Additionally, Aquatic Resources Malta will enable local and international scientists to join new regional and global collaboration projects.
These collaboration opportunities will be “crucial” in view of the investment Government is seeking to attract to Malta’s Exclusive Economic Zone, Dr Bugeja Said explained.
“Here, a call will be made for the setting up of new offshore fish farms, which will offer new job opportunities for our young people, as well as a greater choice of fish for local consumers and foreign markets,” the Parliamentary Secretary continued.
Fish farms have made headlines over the past few years, mainly for their environmental impact.
Swimmers and residents of seaside towns have spotted sea sludge floating in the water, sticking to divers’ suits and making seawater cloudier. This slime tends to be linked to offshore fish farms and the oily feed that they use. These instances have prompted fish farm operators to relocate their pens further offshore, yet it is still a problem, activist Mark Gatt told The Shift earlier this year.
This sea slime is biodegradable, yet it takes time to decompose and may end up entering coasts and bays before fully doing so.
Proposals were raised for further relocations of pens, particularly those located in Sikka l-Bajda (White Reef). Proposals were made to take the pens 4.5 kilometres away from the coast of Qala, Gozo, yet this was strongly objected by the Qala Local Council.
Dr Bugeja Said remarked that the establishment of Aquatic Resources Malta will help sustain existing fish stocks in Malta’s seas, as well as ensure a more “economically and environmentally sustainable” fishing sector.
“Fisheries and aquaculture have great potential for the growth of the blue economy in our country. This entity will send a clear signal of the way forward for these sectors, and will help our country to take the next steps,” she stressed.
She said that over the past years, the aquaculture sector has managed to hatch species such as sea bream, sea bass, and amberjack. Through this entity, Government will “drive awareness of hatching and breeding new species”, including drenches, octopuses and urchins, potentially translating in restocking programmes.
“This is to strengthen fish stocks and their sustainability,” Dr Bugeja Said continued.
The announcement of the new establishment comes just a few days after Malta signed an agreement with China to start exporting bluefin tuna. Malta’s Government aims to extend this type of agreement with other countries to continue contribute and pushing Maltese and Gozitan businesses abroad.
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