Aerial shots submitted to The Shift News confirm that Azzopardi Fisheries has added tuna cages beyond its allocation, despite its application to add “another 12 cages” not yet approved.
AJD Tuna-a company, owned by Azzopardi Fisheries, asked for permission in December to extend the existing tuna penning farm “by placing another 12 tuna cages” off Sikka l-Bajda in St Paul’s Bay.
The application was presented before the identification of a permanent site for aquaculture establishments in the north.
Cages in Comino and St Paul’s Bay were relocated to the temporary site off Sikka l-Bajda – five km from the coast – last year in the wake of a report linking sea sludge on the coastline to tuna penning operations.
The temporary site for the tuna cages was approved in a marine protection area in the vicinity of protected bird colonies. Birdlife had disputed the legality of the permit issued in the absence of environmental impact assessments.
But the relocation to Sikka l-Bajda, supported by both the government and the opposition’s representatives on the Planning Authority’s board, ensured the continuation of tuna penning operations after the PA had revoked previous permits in 2016. The legality of the revocation was questioned by the operators.
The latest application for 12 new cages presented by Azzopardi in December is still at a preliminary stage and is still being screened by the PA before being issued for public consultation. Yet, new cages have already been placed.
The company argues that these cages do not contain fish, or the biomass of the fish is retained and spread among the cages. Yet, this is an issue about permits. It is the equivalent of building a room Outside Development Zones and then requesting the Planning Authority to sanction it.
In October, the PA had approved an application by Malta Mariculture Ltd – a subsidiary of Azzopardi Fisheries – to relocate eight of its tuna pens previously operating from St Paul’s Bay to the new site offshore from Sikka l-Bajda. On that occasion the number of cages was reduced to six but the same volume of tuna was to be retained.
Previously the PA had approved an application by AJD Tuna to relocate six cages from Comino to the new Sikka l-Bajda site.
If approved the new application will increase the number of cages in Sikka l-Bajda from 12 to 24. There are 21 in place at the moment.
Next week the PA board will be deciding whether to confirm the imposition of a € 30,000 contribution to a fund earmarked for environmental projects in St Paul’s Bay, which is being contested by Malta Mariculture Ltd.
Azzopardi Fisheries recently contested the imposition of a €30,000 contribution to a fund earmarked for environmental projects in St Paul’s Bay. The fee was imposed as a condition for the temporary relocation of the company’s cages in St Paul’s Bay to Sikka l-Bajda following the sea sludge controversy.