Diving community reports worrying decline of fish

DIver associations have voiced concern over diminished underwater communities, blaming boating and fishing around artificial reefs

The Federation of Underwater Activities Malta (FUAM) and Professional Diving Schools Association have called upon the authorities to take immediate action over fishing activities in diving areas.

The FUAM reported a 'worrying' decline of fish around the Maltese islands' coast "as supported by the latest state of the industry surveys."

The diving community was speaking about artificial wrecks and artificial reefs, popular diving attractions. But these, they said, do not serve as just free-diving attractions "but also as an 'incubator' for fish which assist in replenishing fish stocks in the surrounding areas."

Despite this, surface fishing from passing boats is still allowed, which is contributing to a loss of sea life according to the diving community.

"The diving industry brings tens of thousands of visitors yearly and the resounding complaint from these visitors relates to the limited amount or decline of sea life witnessed around our coast over the past few years, something that our closest competitors in this industry have plenty of," FUAM said, insinuating that this had wider repercussions.

Besides the real threat to sea life, FUAM argued that fishing lines from passing boats are also potentially deadly to scuba-divers.

"The allowance of passage further complicates the enforcement of protection for these zones as it is harder to distinguish between the different types of fishing to confirm whether a rule was broken or not and many times offenders may be gone well before anyone can catch a registration number or by the time enforcement officers are anywhere in the area," the FUAM statement read.

FUAM said that this was equivalent to having a main road passing through a family park.

The diving community suggested that these underwater sites should be clearly marked with perimeter indicator buoys to indicate the area around wrecks at least for nine months of the year.

With Spring approaching fast, "when water activities around the coast will increase tenfold," FUAM said, the relevant authorities should take immediate action.