Tourism boost can aid struggling traditional fishermen – study

The study found that a large number of tourists would be interested in experiencing the island through trips with working fishermen on traditional boats and learn more about Malta’s artisanal fishing culture.

Tourists to Malta show potential interest in experiencing Malta’s traditional fishing culture according to a new study by the University of Kent, but some obstacles will have to be overcome if this potential is to be realised. 

The research was carried out in March 2015, by a team of postgraduate students from the University’s Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), who distributed questionnaires across Malta and Gozo to visiting tourists and met with local fishers, fishing cooperatives, tourism operators, and conservation groups .   

The study found that a large number of tourists would be interested in experiencing the island through trips with working fishermen on traditional boats and learn more about Malta’s artisanal fishing culture.

Alicia Said, a PhD student with the University of Kent, who along with Prof. Douglas MacMillan assisted the research team, said: “Malta’s traditional fishing industry has been in decline due to a wide range of factors, but providing these fishers with access to the tourism market could offer a much needed source of additional income, especially during periods of low fishing activity.”

In addition to tours with local fishers, many tourists stated a preference for fresh, local fish, suggesting that with improved marketing, local fishers and restaurants could both benefit from higher sales of many species caught in Maltese waters that are from sustainable stocks but currently underutilised.

The report marks the second year of a long term research programme by DICE students, and in the future the students hope to partner with other interested groups such as local NGOs, fishing cooperatives, and tourism companies to support the development of an  artisanal tourism to benefit local fishermen. 

The importance of protecting the traditional fishing sector was highlighted by Sam Leslie, a member of the research team who has worked on fisheries issues in Southeast Asia. “For tourists nothing captures Malta more than the sight of brightly painted Luzzos. These boats and their crews are a living tradition going back thousands of years. If the artisanal fisheries sector collapses it will be a huge loss not just to fishers and their families, but also to Malta’s national identity,” he has said.

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