AQUACULTURE DIRECTORATE


The Aquaculture Directorate has been recently established from the Malta Aquaculture Research Centre in order to extend the remit of the Centre by assigning regulatory functions to it. The Directorate is responsible for the implementation of the Aquaculture Strategy for the Maltese Islands 2014 - 2025  which provides a holistic vision for the Aquaculture Sector in Malta.


Aquaculture Strategy

The Strategy identifies four key objectives: namely improved regulation, improved operation, improved environmental monitoring and better innovation. 

 

1. Improved regulation: To streamline the regulatory environment under one Directorate, with a clear policy on site locations, minimal conflict with other users, and standard conditions for all operators. 

2. Improved operation: To create efficient, productive farms operating according to the principles of best management practice, complying with their operating consents, causing no nuisance to other coastal users, and with a positive public image.

3. Improved environmental monitoring: To create a system that recognises the link between biomass and impacts, specifies limits to what constitutes adverse impact (Environmental Quality Standards - EQS), over what area such impacts are acceptable (Allowed Zone of Affects – AZA), and is proportionate, practical and cost effective.

4. Better Innovation: To create better facilities, funding and human resources to allow high quality applied research for the benefit of all industry operators.

 

These four key objectives are being dealt with through priorities for action that are also highlighted in the Strategy document. The regulatory arm of the aquaculture directorate is being strengthened in order to prioritise on the updating of the national policy, creating a working group to liaise between the industry, the government and MEPA, as well as the identification and applications for new aquaculture zones that will lead to the expansion of the industry.

Operational issues prioritise on hatchery development and better management of baitfish issues for the capture based aquaculture sector.  For improved environmental monitoring, priority is being given to a review of the environmental monitoring system and the development of Environmental Quality Standards and Allowed Zone of Affects.

Innovation issues will prioritise on the development of the marine hatchery and focus on its R&D capabilities, along with an emphasis on amberjack research and further species diversification.

Number of Farms

The industry has 5 farms operating at 9 sites, one farm producing only closed cycle species (CCS), one both CCS and tuna, and the others only tuna.  

Closed Cycle

The farming of “closed cycle species” (CCS) such as sea bream, sea bass and meagre are cultured from eggs produced in hatcheries and fed on manufactured dry feed. A very limited amount of amberjacks are produced through a joint venture project between the government and a private company. CCS production was around 3,000 tons in 2013, which increased to 3,150 tons in 2014

Capture Based Species 

The species produced from the capture based aquaculture is the blue-fin tuna. The production process for tuna consists of the capture of wild adult fish (typically over 70kg) in May/June mainly in the southern Mediterranean, transfer back to pens in Malta, and a fattening period of 6 months or more.  The fish are fed on thawed wet baitfish which is imported frozen and put on about 30% bodyweight before harvest mostly in the autumn. Blue-fin tuna production was around 6,000 tons in 2013 and 5,500 tons in 2014.

Research and Development

The key areas for research are closely related to the needs of the industry and include commercialisation of amberjack culture, closing the cycle for bluefin tuna culture, research into other potential species, developing environmental carrying capacity criteria, and development of offshore cage technology

Research activity is focused on the development of ‘new species’ for aquaculture in Malta, with particular emphasis on the hatchery and cage rearing of amberjack and bluefin tuna. The Amberjack Project, a joint venture between MAR and MFF, operates a commercial hatchery for seabream and carries out research into alternative species.  MAR also carries out water monitoring services for the industry and has an educational role, both for University-level biology students and to the general public.      

Strategy


·         Aquaculture Strategy for the Maltese Islands 2014 - 2025 

·         Strategic Environmental Assessment – Final Environmental Report 

·         Adoption Statement​

 

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