Azzopardi Fisheries wants the Planning Authority to dismiss a €30,000 fee imposed on one of its subsidiaries for the relocation of the company’s tuna pens to the area in Sikka l-Bajda, Mellieha.
The condition was imposed in October on Malta Mariculture Ltd, when a permit for the temporary relocation of eight cages in St Paul’s Bay to Sikka l-Bajda was approved.
The relocation to Sikka l-Bajda, which is 6 km away from the coast, was meant to minimise the risk of pollution reaching the coastline until a permanent site is found.
The relocation was meant to be a temporary one until the location of an aquaculture zone is determined.
Birdlife had objected to the relocation to Sikka l-Baja because the area is within the rafting zone of Yelkouan Shearwaters, which occupy their largest colony estimated at 3% of the world population at the cliffs of Rdum tal- Madonna. Birdlife had accused the Planning Authority and the Environment and Resources Authority of being in breach of the Habitats Directive when no impact assessment of the proposed development was demanded.
The planning gain (a fee to compensate for the environmental impact) was to be allocated for the Planning Authority’s Planning Fund, supposedly used to fund environmental improvement projects in the St Paul’s Bay area.
The operators, through their architect who is former Labour MP Charles Buhagiar, are contesting the planning gain, arguing that a permit issued in June for the relocation of tuna pens in Comino belonging to another subsidiary of the company, had been granted without any request for a planning gain.
They claim that they have conducted various studies to determine the best alternative location, based on guidelines issued by the Environment and Resources Authority, Transport Malta and the Armed Forces of Malta. The studies they conducted based on these guidelines will be forwarded to the Department of Fisheries to determine the location for the North Aquaculture Zone, the company said.
The decision to relocate the cages was taken following a report which identified tuna pens as the source for sea sludge polluting the Maltese coast. The Planning Directorate is calling on the PA Board to deny the request made by the developers. A decision will be taken by the PA board next week.