Busuttil claims Muscat 'playing a political game' by taking hard stance on fish farms

Opposition leader says Planning Authority was actually following the Prime Minister's orders in its decision to give fish farm operators two weeks to come up with plan to address vast illegalities and relocate operations further offshores

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has dismissed Joseph Muscat's criticism of the Planning Authority's decision to postpone a potential revocation of fish farm licenses as a "political game".

"It was a double act. Whenever has the Planning Authority gone against the Prime Minister's wishes?" Busuttil told MaltaToday. "It was clearly following the Prime Minister's orders today, so as to allow him to say he was disappointed and come off as an environmental champion to make up for the flak he received following the PA's approval of the Townsquare and Mriehel high-rise projects."

The PA board met today to decide whether to revoke the permits of four tuna farms – two off Marsaxlokk, one of St Paul’s Bay, and one off Comino, in the wake of revelations that around half their fish cages were illegal. 

It ultimately decided to gave fish farm operators two weeks to reach an agreement with the authorities on how to address the vast illegalities in their farms and to come up with a plan to relocate the farms further offshore.

Muscat responded by tweeting that the fish farm industry had years to address illegalities and relocate their farms further offshore.
However, Busuttil dismissed this as political posturing, arguing that Muscat had as Opposition leader fought against the then PN administration's plans to relocate the fish farms further offshore.

"This is the same government that recently issued a regularisation scheme for planning illegalities," he said.

"The Labour government has done nothing to address these illegalities in three and a half years, so why did it suddenly want to revoke their permits from one day to the next? It is clear that he is over-reacting to public pressure he received by giving two families [Gasan and Tumas] permits to build five towers in Sliema and Mriehel in one day."

The PN leader insisted that fish farm operators must do far more to safeguard the environment, and that the Opposition will vote in favour of revoking their permits if they fail to comply within the stipulated two weeks.

"The environment is a number one priority for me but reasonableness is important too. Even people who build a window illegally should receive a warning before action is taken, let alone an industry that contributes €150 million a year to the economy and employs hundreds of workers."

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