The Malta Independent 20 October 2019, Sunday

Fish farm operators inspected at least three times a week; FMAP hits out at non-members' practices

Wednesday, 18 September 2019, 11:40 Last update: about 1 month ago

All fish farm operators are inspected at least three times a week be ERA officers to ensure permit conditions are followed, a statement by the authority read.

The issue of sea slime has long been a cause of concern for people on the island, and the ERA has issued an explination about the issue. In addition, the The Federation of Maltese Aquaculture Producers (FMAP) has hit out at the feeding practices of its non-members.

The Environment and Resources Authority made reference to various sightings and reports of material in the sea that has been attributed to sea slime. It released a statement to "make a number of clarifications in order to avoid any further misunderstandings."

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There are various types of sea surface phenomena including lasting foam, mucilaginous formations and oily sea slime, the ERA statement read.

"Lasting foam is a natural phenomenon and the result of micro-algal blooms, which release natural detergents and lead to foaming forming at surface. This has been reported in various parts around Malta and in various parts of the Mediterranean and elsewhere."

"Mucilaginous events may also result from natural phenomena and like lasting foam, are usually caused by micro-algal blooms and produce slimy formations."

"On the other hand, oil slicks and oily sea slime usually arise from manmade sources, including fish farms. The latter is usually distinguished from its consistency and foul smell."

All the above events have direct but different impacts on the environment and sometimes on humans, the ERA statement read.

"It may be that the occurrence of lasting foam or micro-algal blooms interact with the oily residues released by fish farms, to aggravate the resultant environmental impacts."

All fish farm operators are inspected at least three times a week be ERA officers to ensure that permit conditions are observed, the ERA said. "Fish remnants resulting during the feeding process are collected by cleaning vessel that patrol the perimeter of the fish farms. "

"All feeding procedures are being undertaken in such a manner as to reduce fat-laden thaw water from the baitfish, from reaching the sea. 

The above photo portrays the amount of fat that was being generated as part of the tuna feeding process, the statement read. "The yellow matter seen in the photo emanates from baitfish that was insufficiently thawed and was resulting in a considerable amount of thaw water and oils being discharged in the sea."

The photo below portrays a different feeding method, whereby residue related to feeding methods was also ending up in the sea, the statement read.

As a result of discussions held between ERA and the Tuna Farm operators, the feeding methods were improved through better thawing procedures, resulting in a drastic reduction of thaw water and fish oils in the surrounding sea, as seen in the photo below, the statement added.

"ERA's officers constantly monitor fish farm operations both on-shore and off-shore and hold frequent meetings with operators in order to ensure practices that cause the least amount of disturbance to the natural environment are being followed. Fifteen administrative fines and one Compliance and Enforcement Order have been issued against Tuna Farm Operators in 2019. ERA emphasises that the collaboration of all fish farm operators is vital in ensuring no disturbance or damage is caused to natural habitats because of commercial interests."

In sections of the press it was reported that one of the fish farm operators had its operations temporarily suspended recently, for breach of of permit conditions.

The Federation of Maltese Aquaculture Producers (FMAP) in reaction also said that none of its members were temporarily suspended due to a breach in conditions of their environmental permit.

The federation said that AJD Tuna Ltd, Fish and Fish Ltd, MFF Ltd, Malta Mariculture Ltd u Ta' Mattew Fisheries Ltd, over the past months dedicated resources to their boats to ensure that their operations are sustainable and do not have a negative impact on the environment.

FMAP also said that some photoc circulating in the media have nothing to do with their members and do not reflect their operations, specifically regarding the thawing of fish. The federation said it has a report by independent experts that show the certaint feeding practices still take place that do not conform with the best environmental standards, and asked that every operator be subject to the same environmental conditions. "What is not good for one is not good for another."

FMAP said that it is not acceptable that a number of operators have to have adequate facilities on the ground, while the authority allows others to operate from the sea.

The federation said that for the industry to remain sustainable, what was accepted int he past does not necessarily remain good for the present.


 

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