Fate of Killifish main concern during PA meeting on Magħluq dredging

Dredging works are needed at Marsaskala’s Magħluq to improve water circulation in the lagoon

Il-Magħluq at Marsaskala
Il-Magħluq at Marsaskala

Dredging works at the Magħluq reserve in Marsaskala may get the go ahead but concerns have been raised on the fate of a protected fish species that lives there.

The Planning Authority on Thursday indicated its intention to approve the application filed by Ambjent Malta, a government agency, for dredging works to improve water circulation in the saline marshland.

A final decision will have to be taken in another meeting as happens whenever the case officer’s recommendation is overturned.

The Magħluq reserve hosts the protected Killifish (Bużaqq) and the needed dredging works were proposed to take  place in winter when the fish migrates to the back of the lagoon.

The killifish is unique as it is the only local fish living in brackish water. The original breed of the fish only lives in Magħluq and Salini.

Ray Caruana coordinator of the national Killifish conservation project said that the species in Marsaskala is endangered due to threats like litter, predators like ducks and the lack of water circulation.

The population of killifish at Magħluq over the years has nearly disappeared according to Caruana who called for maximum attention not to further endanger the fish during any works on the site.

He recommended that dredging take place between July and October after the peak breeding season is over and the fish will still be actively swimming in the upper levels of the water. This will make herding them gradually to the innermost pond by means of fine meshed barriers or possibly air curtains, easier.

Board member Annick Bonello called for consensus between different entities on when it is best to conduct the dredging works.

Environment and Resources Authority chairman Victor Axiak described the dredging as crucial and called for approval on condition that it is done with full cooperation with the authority and the superintendence for cultural heritage.

The application had been recommended for refusal by the case officer for procedural reasons because it lacked a clearance by the superintendence for cultural heritage and a final clearance by ERA.

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