The European Commission has issued a letter of formal notice to the Maltese authorities over its failure to comply with fishing control regulations and imposed a four month deadline to address the list of shortcomings.
The Commission made particular reference to Malta’s failure to comply with illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing regulation.
The government also failed to follow the recommendations set by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) on Bluefin tuna in the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean while also failing to comply with the Bluefin Tuna Regulation.
“In particular, Malta failed in ensuring the presence of an effective monitoring, control and inspection system in Bluefin tuna farms,” the Commission said.
The letter also highlighted that Commission officials identified a number of “serious shortcomings” in several audit and verification missions, including failure to allow access of EU inspectors to waters in Maltese jurisdiction within a specific control and inspection programme.
The Commission also mentioned delayed investigations, limited numbers of random control checks and failure to sanction operators.
“Malta has not taken the necessary steps to address the above-mentioned deficiencies. Malta now has four months to address the shortcomings raised. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion.”
A reasoned opinion is a mechanism by which the European Commission sends a formal request to comply with EU law and provides a detailed explanation as to why the Commission considers that the country is in breach of EU law.
The formal notice was sent to Malta as the European Commission published its regular package of infringement decisions as it pursues legal actions against Member States.
These decisions cover various sectors of EU policy areas and are aimed to ensure the proper application of EU law.
Last November, The Shift revealed how the illegal catchment of Bluefin tuna in Malta may amount to thousands through a subversive fishing practice at a reef known as Is-Sikka tan-Nofs, close to tuna ranching operations in the area.
The area has become a hub for Bluefin tuna farms. Two of these: Mare Blu farm, which belongs to Spanish corporation Ricardo Fuentes e Hijos and Malta Fish Farming were implicated in a recent Spanish-led investigation, called Operation Tarantelo, which uncovered a smuggling racket amounting to €12 million annually.