AQUACULTURE DIRECTORATE


The Aquaculture Directorate oversees the research and development as well as the regulatory arm of Aquaculture within the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture. In addition, 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.


Implementation of the Aquaculture Strategy

The implementation of the Strategy follows the four key objectives that were identified in the technical document that led to the formulation of the Final Strategy: 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. 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 the Planning and Environmental Resource Authorities, as well as the identification and applications for new aquaculture zones that will lead to the expansion of the industry. Through this initiative, the North Aquaculture Zone is established and it will contain all tuna farm sites that previously were at Sikka l-Bajda and the Comino Channel.

Operational issues prioritise on better management of baitfish issues for the capture based aquaculture sector.  For improved environmental monitoring, priority will be 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 its Research & Development capabilities, along with an emphasis on research towards species diversification.

The Directorate also serves an educational role, where local (MCAST) and foreign students carry out their studies and research projects.


Number Of Farms & Production

The industry has 4 tuna ranches that produce over 80% of Malta’s aquaculture production through capture-based aquaculture, and 2 closed cycle species farms that produce sea bream, sea bass and meagre. The tuna farms operate from the South and North Aquaculture zones, whereas the closed cycle species farms operate closer to shore at Mistra Bay, St Paul’s Bay, Mellieha on the north coast and off Xrobb l-Ghagin on the southern end of the Maltese Islands.

According to the National Statistics Office (NSO), in 2017 the industry produced a total of 15,721 tons of fish with a total value of €180 million. 13,120 tons of Malta’s production in 2017 was blue-fin tuna and the remainder was sea bass, sea bream and other species.


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. The fingerlings grown in Malta are imported from hatcheries in Italy or France.


Capture Based Species

The production process for blue-fin tuna consists of the capture of wild adult fish (typically around 100kg) in May/June mainly in the southern Mediterranean region, before being transferred back to pens in Malta, where they are fattened for a period of 6 months or more. The fish are fed on baitfish which is imported frozen. They gain about 30% bodyweight before harvest mostly in the autumn period.


Research & Development​

The key areas for research and development focus on the needs for industry development - that is the development of closed cycle systems for species with a high economic return, such as the blue-fin tuna, the amberjack, red scorpion-fish, red porgy, mullet, etc. Other species that are of interest include the common cuttlefish, the grey mullet, and species that can be used as live feed. Research is ongoing for fish husbandry techniques and any other area that may need to be investigated.

Strategy


·         Aquaculture Strategy for the Maltese Islands 2014 - 2025 

·         Strategic Environmental Assessment – Final Environmental Report 

·         Adoption Statement​

 

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