Global focus: Aquaculture in Malta
Ivor Robinich highlights a government strategy to reduce the environmental impacts of aquaculture on the Maltese islands
Aquaculture in Malta goes back three decades and the farming of aquatic organisms, such as fish and crustaceans, is still a growing sector in the country’s economy. But the cumulative effects on the coast from the industry, as well as from tourism and housing, have been felt in recent years.
Malta’s ministry for sustainable development, environment and climate change has responded with its “Aquaculture strategy for the Maltese islands” to improve management, reduce environmental impacts, and mitigate conflicts with other coastal uses. Its implementation should ensure aquaculture becomes a contributor towards a greener national economy.
Through the consideration of the carrying capacity of the marine waters and the enhancement of monitoring, Malta will be pursuing its objective to achieve a good environmental status under the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which aims to protect more effectively the marine environment across Europe.
Aquaculture in Malta is governed by various regulations but the framework has developed more slowly than the industry. The development planning process for fish farms now operating requires an environmental impact assessment, and includes monitoring and periodical reporting. However, this process was only based on the development’s spatial demands, and omitted environmental impacts from other nearby marine and costal activities.
The scope of the new strategy is to ensure that aquaculture is taken into account in the formulation of all major policies, while constantly monitoring its environmental performance. An interim review is set for five years after its adoption and will assess any technological or regulatory developments. The strategy provides for the possibility of establishing new aquaculture zones. It also addresses the need for vocational training programmes, mechanisms that ensure funding and research in species diversification, technological improvements, and better mitigation and reduction of environmental impacts.
Malta expects the strategy to lay down the foundations for it to become a leader in sustainable aquaculture in the Mediterranean region and Europe.
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