A petition urging Parliament to stop the operators of a fish farm in the North East of Malta from increasing the number of tuna pens from 12 to 24 has been launched.
The pens are located outside St.Paul’s Bay, Qawra and Ghallis and the operators of the farm – Azzopardi Fisheries – are requesting to double the number of pens from 12 to 24 to the detriment of the residents, swimmers and causing damage to the marine environment through oil slicks, fish residue and waste products from the tuna confined to these pens.
Despite environment minister Jose Herrera’s reassurances that the illegal pens had been removed, aerial photos show that not only have the pens not been removed but they have increased to 22 pens, 10 more than permitted.
In the first 24 hours over 500 signatures have been collected.
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 told The Shift News ‘this is all turning into a bad joke where nobody seems to care that we’re looking at a summer full of pollution, stinking fish slime and oil slicks on our shores.”
In 2016 a large amount of pollution, oil slicks, fish slime & residue originating from the tuna pens covered the surface of the sea and shoreline making it unsuitable for swimming.
On investigation the authorities found that the tuna farm operator had more pens than originally permitted and the illegal pens were removed. In 2017 the Planning Authority sanctioned the relocation of 12 tuna pens to a temporary location – some 5km off the St.Paul’s Bay shore – during which studies were conducted to confirm the best location for such operations.
Although the final report is expected to be published in May of this year, a new application was submitted in December 2017 to double the number of pens from 12 to 24.
In January and February of this year the pens were illegally increased to 22 and despite objections were filed with the Planning Authority and the Environment and Resources Authority, the pens have not been removed.
Meanwhile, Partit Demokratiku MPs Godfrey Farrugia and Marlene Farrugia have asked Parliament’s Environment and Development committee to debate the regulation, operation and environmental monitoring of blue-fin tuna aquaculture in northern coastal waters.