Aquaculture Resources Ltd., a conglomerate formed between Azzopardi Fisheries and Malta Fish Farming Limited, has been allocated additional public land by the government to expand its operations.
Economy Minister Silvio Schembri revealed the allocation of the land in an answer to a parliamentary question by Opposition MP Mark Anthony Sammut. Schembri claimed the land was allocated by government industrial parks company INDIS Malta after the “investment” was approved by Malta Enterprise “through a rigorous process.”
The area allocated is likely close to Aquaculture Resources’ existing processing plant at the Ħal Far Industrial Complex, which made headlines last year after it was linked to a foul stench, outraging nearby Birżebbuġa residents.
Two-thirds of the fish farms conglomerate is formed by Azzopardi Fisheries’ subsidiary companies AJD Tuna Ltd. and Fish and Fish Ltd. The other third is Malta Fish Farming Ltd., owned by the Tal-Elbros construction subsidiaries.
The companies, both Labour Party donors, have enjoyed favourable treatment from the government. In the case of Azzopardi Fisheries in particular, The Shift exposed how, in 2018, the government closed both eyes to flagrant and unpermitted expansion of their operations.
The conglomerate is led by CEO Charlon Gouder, who has served as former environment minister José Herrera’s private secretary and, at the time, the fish farms regulator, landing phantom jobs on the government’s arts council and serving as disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat’s lawyer.
Gouder then went on to work within the fish farm industry and is additionally linked to human resources supplier OZO Group, which imports foreign workers to work in low-salaried positions.
Azzopardi Fisheries’ Charles and David Azzopardi, ‘tal-Elbros’’ Saviour Ellul and lawyer John Refalo, from Refalo Advocates, also serve as the conglomerate’s directors.
Aquaculture Resources Limited’s Ħal Far processing plant, opened in October 2022, was billed as a ‘solution’ to the persistent sea slime emanating from fish farms owned by the conglomerate’s constituent companies.
Merely a week into its operation, the Birżebbuġa local council had called for an “immediate halt” to its operations, linking it to an “unbearable stench.”
The facility was built at the Ħal Far industrial complex under the remit of INDIS Malta and Economy Minister Silvio Schembri. The industrial parks company, called a “mini constituency” office by insider sources, has been linked to rampant abuse, with businessmen, mostly construction developers, who are close to the minister “doing what they like with public land supposedly meant for industrial purposes”.
The plant, which has been allowed to continue operating, will likely expand thanks to the newly allocated public land, with Aquaculture Resources Limited launching misleading greenwashing campaigns to quell public disapproval of their tuna ranching operations.
Questions sent to Schembri and Malta Enterprise Chairman William Wait asking for more details on the allocated public land have not been answered by the time of publication.