Less than a week into operations and the ‘solution’ to the sea slime emanating from fish farms that has been plaguing the country for years seems to have been merely transferred from surf to turf.
The Birzebbuga Local Council has called on the Environment and Resources Authority to “immediately halt” the operations of the new facility in Hal Far built by Aquaculture Resources Ltd, which is processing waste from the farms into fish meal and oil for export as a solution to it making its way into the sea as slime, because of the “unbearable stench” coming from the plant.
The Council has also filed an official complaint with the ERA.
The facility had been given permits by both the Planning Authority and the ERA but now that it has commenced operations, residents of the areas of Tal-Papa and Hal Far are unable to cope with the awful smells just days into operations.
The Council wants the ERA to declare a cease and desist order on operations “until the facility is equipped with all equipment necessary, and which was promised, promised to suppress the smells,” Mayor Scott Camilleri said.
The ERA had approved an application for an Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) permit for the facility at the end of September, while the Planning Authority had given the plant its stamp of approval in March of last year.
“Such facilities further contribute towards a circular system with minimal to zero waste generation, whilst augmenting the environmental sustainability of this important sector of Malta’s blue economy,” the ERA said at the time.
The facility is being run by Aquaculture Resources Ltd, which is made up of Malta’s main players in the fish farming industry and counts amongst its shareholders: Charles Azzopardi (Azzopardi Fisheries), Joseph Caruana (Fish and Fish Ltd) and Saviour Ellul (MFF Limited).
Charlon Gouder is the company’s director. Gouder had previously worked for former environment minister Jose Herrera, who held the fish farming industry under his ministerial portfolio.
Economy Minister Silvio Schembri visited the plant while it was still under construction last May, where he described it as a clear example of where the country wants to go in future projects.
“Thanks to this project,” he said, “not only will a new industry be created, generating economic growth, but the waste will also be recycled into new products, in line with our goals for a circular economy.”
The government’s industrial parks agency, INDIS, had granted the land in Hal Far to the company for the €11 million facility.
“This,” Mayor Camilleri said, however, “is an unacceptable situation and an act of disrespect for the Birzebbuga community. Birzebbuga is already carrying a heavy weight and cannot take much more. Our residents deserve a better quality of life.”