Capture-Based Aquaculture

Bluefin Tuna

In Malta, three Bluefin Tuna farms operate from a specifically-assigned Aquaculture Zone 6 km off the South-eastern coast, while another two farms are located within another offshore aquaculture zone in the North of Malta.

The tuna farming technology used in Malta is similar to that of other Mediterranean countries, namely Spain, Croatia and Turkey. Generally, fish are caught in international waters by purse seines during the months of June and July. They are then transferred to the cages where they are fed on raw fish, depending on farm management and requirements. The fish are kept in the cages until they are harvested and exported between October and January as fresh or frozen products mainly to Asian markets (Japan). The size of the exported fish depends on the size of fish caught from the wild and generally range between 80 and 250 kg.

As all farmed tuna are caught from the wild, the sustainability of fish stocks and coastal ecosystems is a matter of concern for various bodies. Assessments carried out by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) indicated strong declines in the spawning stock biomass since 1993 (FAO/GFCM/ICCAT, 2005). Following these indications, strict control measures have been implemented and quotas have been established for each country through a multi annual recovery plan. The full implementation of this recovery plan led to recent stock biomass increases and the stock is no longer considered to be overfished and no overfishing is taking place.  Notwithstanding this positive result, the industry’s continuous demand for the exploitation of this resource creates the need for more research whereby Atlantic bluefin tuna juveniles are produced for aquaculture and relieving the pressure on the wild stocks.​