The Malta Independent 26 November 2022, Saturday
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Seeking solutions through research and international dialogue

Alicia Bugeja Said Sunday, 2 October 2022, 07:55 Last update: about 3 months ago

In an ever connected world, where even remote islands such as Malta form a significant part of international socio-economics, finding like-minded friends becomes an even more essential part of international diplomacy. As industry, trade and cultural backgrounds become even more intertwined, engaging with foreign stakeholders becomes more of an essential priority.

I was extremely lucky to be able to visit another country which possesses the same benefits and potential pitfalls as our lovely home. In this regard, Iceland indeed possesses great advantages as an economic and diplomatic powerhouse in the region. However, as an island state like Malta, it is also immensely susceptible to looming threats, especially those faced by climate change and weakened trade routes.

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Fishing in Iceland is as part of the cultural and historic fabric as that of Malta. While our country has often been described as a safe haven in the middle of the Mediterranean, Iceland plays a crucial role in maintaining political and economic stability in the North Sea as well as the Atlantic Ocean.

I was very optimistic about the possibility of our two countries developing even stronger relationships. These connections are essential in order, for both our like-minded countries, to be able to withstand together common threats, as well as develop a way forwards which can be beneficial for the fishing secretaries of both of our nations.

I was very fortunate to have met many important stakeholders from both the public and private sector within the Icelandic fishing industry. Thankfully it was extremely easy for us to manage to find common ground.  I was mightily impressed by their successful plan of engaging with the private sector, in a cohesive and consistent manner. This close collaboration is essential in ensuring that the fishing sector, notwithstanding any looming threats that it may have due to environmental and socio-political concerns, remains sustainable in both the immediate and long term future.

One of the more interesting points in my trip was my visit to MARS, the Matis Aquaculture Research Station, VAXA Technologies, and the BRIM Fish Processing Plant. These state-of-the-art research facilities allow testing of feed ingredients, water treatments, and other aquaculture practices.

Their research on temperature differences, oxygen control, and the effects on varying UV light, has managed to lead to a vast trove of information, which is not only useful for their local fish production, but also international trade. I look forward in ensuring that the newly-set up Aquaculture Laboratory, in San Luċjan, will collaborate closely with this institute, and lead to further tangible results in the future.

Furthermore, a visit to both the Reykjavik Fish Market, and the Iceland Fish Expo 2022, showcased the strengths of having a local fish sector in cohesion with each other, and all of the other relevant stakeholders. These two initiatives, very similar to the Festa Ħut event organised a few days ago, remain as relevant as ever. Through such events, both small-scale and large-scale operators in the fishing industry are allowed to engage with foreign and local investors, and the common populace at large. Maintaining such bonds, from a commercial and cultural perspective, is as essential as ensuring the environmental sustainability related to such sector.

This Government has already shown during these past months, its willingness to engage with a multitude of stakeholders on varying issues. Engaging with like-minded countries, in order to tackle common threats and work on conjoined solutions, is one of this Government’s driving forces, and we’ll continue doing so in the near and long-term future.

Alicia Bugeja Said is the parliamentary secretary for Fisheries, Aquaculture and Animal Welfare

 

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