A boat was seen towing a cage early this morning towards the site where Azzopardi Fisheries’ tuna cages are located despite Environment Minister Jose Herrera telling Parliament last week that the company was ordered to remove the additional cages placed without a permit.
The tuna cages owned by Azzopardi Fisheries at the Sikka l-Bajda site have almost doubled without a permit. The location was meant to be temporary one, hosting only 12 cages. The Shift News published aerial shots of the cages on site on Monday showing the company had increased its cages to 21.
The Environment Minister told Parliament last week: “My Ministry, through the relevant regulatory agencies, has conducted the necessary inspections. They informed me that the information was correct; that there were nine or 10 additional cages there without a permit… but it also emerged, and this is no excuse, that these cages were empty. Orders were given for their removal”.
Yet this morning activists managed to capture shots of a boat (far out at sea) towing another cage to the location near St Paul’s Island. The cage was most likely empty, yet the company was already in breach of its permit for 12 cages on site. Azzopardi Fisheries should be removing cages, not adding them.
The company’s actions have angered activists who say Malta is already privileged to have a high tuna quota compared to other countries, and that expansion of the industry will again bring the disgusting slime along the coast that Malta experienced two years ago.
Nicolai Abela, the man behind the Stop the Slime campaign born in the summer of 2016 when unprecedented levels of greasy, white slime spread along the coastline stretching from Mellieha to Sliema and the stink of rotten fish affected also the St Paul’s Bay area, pointed out that it was then that the public realised there was double the number of tuna pens permitted off St Paul’s Island.
Action was taken, permits were revoked, pens were removed and the cages were relocated to a temporary location further offshore which allowed a relatively ‘slime-free’ summer last year.
“Do we really need to be the ones to find out ‘by chance’ again that the pens have doubled beyond their permit? Where are the Fisheries Department, the Planning Authority, the Environment Authority and the Environment Ministry who promised us regular monitoring and surveillance?” Abela said.